Hats off to the U.S. government for taking a stand to help out the world’s lions

Last summer when a dentist from the U.S. shot and killed Cecil the lion in an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe, a lot of people were outraged. President Obama was one of those people and at the time, his administration pledged to take action and do what it could to make sure something like this never happened again. At the time Laury Parramore, spokesperson for the Fish & Wildlife Service, issued a statement which said, “The Service is deeply concerned about the recent killing of Cecil the lion . . . It is up to all of us — not just the people of Africa — to ensure that healthy, wild populations of animals continue to roam the savanna for generations to come.” And now our government is making good on its promise to do something.

The Obama administration is making a strategic move to place African lions under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. According to The New York Times, the Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to make an announcement on Monday stating that lions in southern and East Africa will officially be listed as threatened, “with an additional special rule that prods countries to regulate sport hunting of lions in ways that promote conservation.”

This is all sounds really great, but what exactly does it mean? Basically, that hunters can’t just go to Africa, shoot a lion and bring its dead body back to the U.S. It will also be tougher to bring live lions into the country, as well as lion parts, such as paws, skin, and heads. (Are people really importing “lion parts?” Because ew.) Under the new rules, bringing any type of lion trophy into the U.S. from countries where lions are listed as endangered will be “general prohibited.” Lions shot and killed from countries in Africa where the species is listed as “threatened” can still be imported, but the hunters will now have to meet new, tougher standards, and under no circumstances can the trophy be a result of an illegal hunt.

This is great news for all of us who were so saddened by Cecil’s death. And it’s obviously great news for lions. Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish & Wildlife Service, told The New York Times the decision to take action to protect lions, “one of the planet’s most beloved species,” was a result of a drastic decline in lion populations in the wild. National Geographic has tracked the decreasing lion population in a special graphic, and the results are sobering.

We’re proud of our government for taking an awesome step toward saving this gorgeous species. If you want to know what you can do to help lions, visit here.

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[Image via Shutterstock]