The government of Kenya is lobbying the U.N.‘s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to give the African lion its most protected status. Kenya’s Wildlife Services estimates that the overall population of the king of beasts—now numbering about 23,000—has been cut in half over the past decade due to habitat loss, a decline in prey, and unsustainable trophy hunting.
Kenya’s proposal focuses on upgrading the African lion’s CITES status to Appendix 1, which is reserved for species only on the brink of extinction. Such an upgraded designation would render illegal the trophy hunting of lions currently allowed in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These countries profit from trophy hunting of lions and, as such, oppose Kenya’s proposal.
As CITES’ mandate is limited to wildlife exported for commercial purposes, Kenya is arguing that the export of lions shot on trophy hunts is trade and justifies upgrading the lion’s status. Meanwhile, Namibia has submitted a compromise counter-proposal that would limit trophy hunting to “problem” lions that wander out of protected areas and prey on livestock. CITES members will decide on the issue during their upcoming annual meeting in early October in Bangkok, Thailand.