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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The real killers: American trophy hunters drive African lions closer to extinction

By Daily Mail Reporter

African lions are being driven towards extinction by American hunters determined to bag trophies, wildlife organisations have warned.

The lions, already threatened by conflict with farmers over land and by shrinking habitats, are being driven to the brink by the increasing demand from the U.S. for personal trophies, such as lion skins, and a growing trade in animal parts.

Jeff Flocken, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: 'The king of the jungle is heading toward extinction, and yet Americans continue to kill lions for sport. It is time for this senseless killing and unsustainable practice to stop.'

The king under threat: demand for hunting trophies in the U.S. is driving the African lion towards extinction

A coalition of wildlife organisations has petitioned the White House to list the African lion as an endangered species and ban the import of hunting trophies such as skins, claws and skulls, which can sell for thousands of dollars.

The coalition, which includes IFAW, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Born Free and Defenders of Wildlife, said that two-thirds of the lions hunted for sport were taken to the U.S. in the past 10 years.

They said that at least 5,663 lions were traded for recreation between 1998 and 2008, with 64 percent of the resulting trophies being imported into America.

There were up to 200,000 lions in Africa 100 years ago, said the coalition. That figure has now fallen to between 23,00 and 40,000, with lions extinct in 26 countries.

The practice is made worse by the hunters' desire to bag a dominant male, according to a report in The Guardian. The death of the leader makes the pride unstable, with the new dominant male often killing all the cubs to preserve his position. Mr Flocken said: 'The countries that allow hunting have the worst drops in lion populations.'

Hunters are by no means the only threat. The human population in Afria, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is growing rapidly and could hit 1.75 billion by 2050.

Wilderness areas are being encroached upon to make room for agriculture and to build roads – such as the controversial highway across the Serengeti.

Some conservationists argue that a total ban on hunting is unnecessary. They claim that responsible hunting could in some instances help lion populations by conserving wilderness areas.



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