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African Lions Are Now on the Endangered Species List

Thanks, in part, to Cecil the lion.

Cecil the lion, who was killed on July 6, 2015. Image via Wikimedia Commons user Daughter#3

In early July, an American dentist and amateur hunter named Walter Palmer traveled to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and killed a lion named Cecil. Cecil was one of the most beloved lions in the park, and was also part of a long-term scientific study on the movements of lions in the area. The world was horrified.

Now, influenced in part by what happened to Cecil, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that it would place lions in Africa under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (Indian lions were already on the list). The move will put tighter restrictions on the transportation of lion “trophies”—like paws and heads—into the United States.

As The Guardian points out, the listing is significant because although the United States cannot regulate hunting in Africans nations, more than 5,600 lions have been killed and imported into the country by American hunters in the past decade. In fact, Americans conduct half of all African lion hunting.

“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. “If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us—not just the people of Africa and India—to take action.”

Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, told The New York Times that the intense, worldwide reaction to Cecil’s death placed unprecedented pressure on U.S. officials to make a policy shift. Cecil “changed the atmospherics on the issue of trophy hunting around the world,” he said.

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