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Director's Corner

Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.

The African Lion Needs Our Help


July 31: “Late yesterday afternoon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement was contacted by a representative of Dr. Walter Palmer. The Service's investigation is ongoing and appreciates that Dr. Palmer's representative voluntarily reached out to the Service,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

July 30: "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of 'Cecil the lion.' That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead. At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately," Edward Grace, Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

July 29: "The Service is deeply concerned about the recent killing of Cecil the lion. We are currently gathering facts about the issue and will assist Zimbabwe officials in whatever manner requested. 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,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We proposed listing the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Credit: Ken Stansell/USFWS

For centuries, the African lion has been the emblem of royalty – and a universal symbol of strength, nobility and power. But as powerful as lions may be, evidence shows that they need our help to survive.

The lion is part of our heritage as global citizens. Ensuring that healthy populations continue to roam the savannah is up to all of us – not just the people of Africa. That’s why today we proposed to protect the lion under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. (RELATED: What We Do for the African Lion)

Lions are still found across a large range in Africa. Although populations in protected areas of eastern and southern Africa have been relatively stable over the last three decades, lions elsewhere are suffering alarming declines.

That’s because the human population of sub-Saharan Africa is exploding – pushing settlements, grazing and agriculture into lion habitat. Even protected areas haven’t been immune. Humans are also killing the wild prey that supports lions in increasing volumes, consuming these animals and selling them as bushmeat. Faced with declining habitat and prey, desperate lions are increasingly targeting livestock and people – resulting in retaliatory killing of lions.

The human population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to more than double by 2050 – making a bad situation worse. Unless aggressive measures are taken to protect lions, their prey and habitat, the lion will likely face the threat of extinction within that time frame.

What We Do for the African Lion

Endangered Species Act protection will allow the United States to strengthen enforcement and monitoring of imports and international trade. We’ll also be able to provide additional law enforcement and on-the-ground conservation support, in partnership with African countries and partner organizations.

We can’t succeed in sustaining lions without working with the people who share the landscape with it – and recognizing their need to feed themselves and their families. We need to work with African nations and conservation organizations to engage and empower local communities to view lions as an asset, not a liability.

For that reason, we’re also proposing an accompanying special rule that would require a permit for the import of any sport-hunted lion trophy into the country.

Lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting. In fact, evidence shows that scientifically sound conservation programs that include limited, well-managed sport hunting can and do contribute to the long-term survival of the species.

U.S. hunters – the vast majority of who strongly support sustainable game management – make up a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa.

That gives us a powerful tool to support countries managing their lion populations in a sustainable manner – and a strong incentive for other nations to strengthen their management programs.

Under this special rule, we cannot and will not allow trophies into the United States from any nation whose lion conservation program fails to meet key criteria for transparency, scientific management and effectiveness.

Permits would be granted if, and only if, the trophies were taken as part of a scientific management program that provides proven benefits to the overall lion population and local communities.

We know that many people around the world care about lions, and we have a public comment period open to allow the public, partners and interested stakeholders to comment and submit additional information that will help us make the best final decision. Please visit regulations.gov to submit your comments.

In the meantime, we will continue collaborative efforts on multiple levels to protect and restore African lion populations across their range.

NOTE: Comments on this blog are not official comments to the proposed rule to list the African lion as threatened. The African lion public comment period is  officially open for 90 days, through January 27, 2015. To have your comments included in the official record, please go to regulations.gov Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025 and follow the instructions. More information can be found here: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/african_lion.html.


This protection effort means little, if American hunters are allowed to visit Africa and kill a proteccted species. They just check off their bucket list w/o actually bringing the animal back to the U.S. This is exactly why, despite the Rhino being protected under CITES, American hunters can go over to Africa and kill a Rhino. Tis all legal until they bring back a Rhino body part.
# Posted By | 10/27/14 2:24 PM

I am South-African and the African lion is alot of peoples favourite predator and I and numerous of other South Africans will do anything to protect the Lion.

I suggest that we open up Nature Reserves is high Lion populated areas so preserve the predator. Also we must stop the Poaching of Lions as they get Poached by Locals and Asians for their teeth and Bones. We should start Fund raisers for the predator to protect them and preserve them for generations to come and including the Hyenas and other Wild dogs are also getting slaughterd by farmers and poachers.

Please Help.
# Posted By | 10/28/14 12:43 AM

Please help stop this unnecessary slaughter of such magnificent creatures. Pass stronger protection laws against poachers and wild life traders. Educate people in countries like China that old superstitions and practices are false. Change attitudes in USA that big game hunting is macho and elitist.
So many big game animals are at the tipping point, and if we do not act now and swiftly they will be gone forever. Can you imagine a world without lions, elephants, great apes, etc.? If we do not act strong now we will be showing only images of these great creatures to our great grandchildren because we have destroyed them.
# Posted By Susan Rassai | 10/28/14 12:54 PM

So can you please shed some light on this... then??!
# Posted By | 10/29/14 10:33 AM

I am a South - African and it's true hunting isn't the main reason but Poaching and hunting by poor African locals for Meat is the reason we just have to create awareness and open up more Nature Reserves to protect them, and if you people are wondering if Wild Animals walk freely in the Streets of RSA they don'n only in the wild and nature Reserves because i know you get Americans thinking thats how it is.
# Posted By | 10/29/14 11:16 AM

I strongly recommend an import ban for African Lion trophies to the US. Sport hunting on a species under the risk of extinction by other threats doesn’t make any sense and people know how to get around a permitting mechanism. Please know that the SCI invested 750.000,- US dollars to get those scientists you took into account to construct estimates on lion population numbers to white-wash the situation in favor to the hunting industry. There hasn’t been done any proper head survey on African Lions since decades, only a few single populations got investigated and the results put into a simple algorithm to gloss over numbers in order to please the grant givers. Plus, the numbers of imports of African Lion trophies to the US is higher than the mortality rate of lions caused by retaliation killing etc. Furthermore the SCI has published your Department is NOT going to list the African Lion, please shed light on this. http://www.fightingforlions.org/pressreleases/fws-...
# Posted By | 10/29/14 11:56 AM

US Fish & Wildlife Service , the World has been waiting a long time for you to list the African Lion as Endangered . Please BAN all imports of African Lion Trophies into your Country! A permit stipulation is not going to make a difference as we all know how the almighty buck talks and how Trophy hunters will find a way to easily obtain one..Why are you not putting the African Lion first....................again?????
# Posted By | 10/29/14 12:25 PM

Please BAN all imports of African Lion Trophies to the U.S Please put African Lion first before there are none left.
# Posted By | 10/29/14 12:25 PM
# Posted By | 10/29/14 1:37 PM

Once these animals are gone they are gone. I don't know who is up who's skirt but our world is losing the battle.
# Posted By Tricia | 10/29/14 2:17 PM

You have to stop the madness.how can you let killing for fun becomes business???? There are thousands people from all over the world to protect wild animals and in the mean time how can you even think about making mlney out of this poor animals death????

Shame on American government and you people
You can't seek forgiveness for this
# Posted By lisa kim | 10/29/14 3:00 PM

Please save the lions! Stop throphyhunters from killing lions and bringing them home to America! There is not many lions left in Africa!!! Please take action now!
# Posted By Louise Larsson | 10/29/14 3:13 PM

The African lions need to be protected from selfish money-minded people. Please save them.
# Posted By | 10/30/14 11:43 AM

Please list The Lions as endangered and STOP THE MADNESS NOW!! God bless and Protect them!!
# Posted By Karma k | 10/30/14 4:43 PM

Lions are indeed are in the beginning of their end. It is time take serious action now. Protected areas must be enlarged, hunting must be stopped. I can think of few things sadder than the demise of these majestic creatures. Trophy hunting groups deceive us to believe that the danger is not grace but science tells us it is. Act!
# Posted By vahid r ramezani | 10/30/14 8:37 PM

Stop allowing killing of All animals! The Lions in Africa. The domestic cats and dogs in Pennsylvania for meat. You have made me ashamed to be an American. We are supposed to be the most powerful country. But yet we allow the most to destructive things to happen. This breaks my heart into pieces.
# Posted By Debbie Allison | 11/2/14 8:59 PM

For all of you shaming the US. Why is it even our problem. If the South African government would shut down the breeders and the other countries refuse to sell hunting permits wouldn't this problem be over? And it's not only US citizens that hunt in Africa, so do the Brits, all of the EU, Spain brings home tons of trophies etc. etc. etc. Yet you want to blame only the US? How about over population, human wildlife conflict? Spearing and poisoning by the local tribes? At least the US is trying something. Remember they have no real jurisdiction in those African countries and even when there are bans many of those African countries defy are argue against the bans themselves. The problem starts with AFRICA. Shame on them for selling their animals to the highest bidder!!
# Posted By Guest | 11/3/14 12:53 PM

Please ban the import of lion trophies because obviously African is so corrupt it can't say no to the money offered them by the trophy hunters and stop issuing licenses. I guess we, the US has to step in and solve their problems for them. I only hope the rest of the world will be willing to do the same because hunters come from everywhere. NOT JUST THE US. In fact I believe they sell permits to locals/residents in Africa also.
# Posted By | 11/3/14 12:58 PM

I love animals
# Posted By | 11/14/14 4:05 PM

I have lived in Africa for 11 years and following the killing of lions day by day through friends living in Africa and caring for African wildlife. There are much more lons killed than the actual numbers showed as the confliuct between humans and lions is growing due to lack of land as population is growing. And on top YOU want to allow legal killing of such an endangered species??? How ignorant can you be sitting far away in the US not knowing what is happening (I have livced in Nambia buidling up a 6000 ha Nature Park and 4 years in Tanzania and I know what I am talking about). But of course it is again about the money and the pride of such poor guys that can tell they have killed one of the lasts remaining predators......until the biggest and most harmful predator the "human being" is left only. Speak up for the lions, please !!!!
# Posted By Sabine Stritter | 11/22/14 6:42 PM

# Posted By brigitte | 11/23/14 9:36 AM

save the lions over the dollar its a no brainier STOP hunting then BEFORE they are on the endangered list !!! this is a criminal act apin innocent animals that have been here long before AMERiCAN currency !!!!
# Posted By colorful rollings | 12/1/14 10:41 PM

Good People: Further to several petitions calling for the listing of the African Lion as ENDANGERED. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have made a proposal to list the African Lion as THREATENED under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. We are very disappointed that the lion may now only receive the lesser listing of Threatened rather than Endangered.
NOTE: The proposal also includes one other measure: a rule requiring permits for the import of sport-hunted lions. These permits would only be issued for countries that employ scientifically-sound management plans for lions!
# Posted By Rhonda Banks | 12/28/14 6:50 PM

These are magnificent animals and will soon become extinct. There are not many left so the one that are need t b protected and put on the endangered list. We need t b able to show oir childrens childrens childrens what they look like in real life instead of just pictures in books
# Posted By Helen Ellerby | 1/8/15 10:33 PM

Under this special rule, we cannot and will not allow trophies into the United States from any nation whose lion conservation program fails to meet key criteria for transparency, scientific management and effectiveness.

In light of recent events of the dentist in the U.S. He oh so very sorry for poaching this animal. Poor guy paid for the permits but thought it was okay to drive a slaughtered animal around to lure him away from his reserve. They very least we can do is make this an illegal act of an American to bring this animal home. This man should be prosecuted alongside the Africans that took his money.
# Posted By Shannon | 7/28/15 7:57 PM

Couldn't agree more with Shannon. If we're going to advocate for endangered species let's do it all the way and ban imports of lion trophy's.
# Posted By Rebecca | 7/29/15 1:58 PM

I think the person who killed Cecil the Lion should be studied. What makes an individual kill and gain pleasure out of killing such a majestic animal. It's a sickness. Please write the US Fish and Wildlife Services to put lions on the endangered list and stop the import of trophy animals.
# Posted By Kathryn Andrews | 7/29/15 3:22 PM

List them as ENDANGERED not THREATENED. We need to stop the flow of dead animal heads and other body parts into this country immediately. Let this be one good thing coming out of the Cecil killing, which has galvanized and catalyzed so many people. Do not dismiss your public, please. If there are too many lions left to consider them endangered by your technical definition, then change the definition. Enough already.
# Posted By | 7/30/15 9:01 PM

I strongly encourage the FWS to spend your time and energy completing your ESA rule-making process for the African lion listing petition instead of opening a faux investigation into the killing of Cecil the lion. Agency outrage a the killing of a lion rings hollow in light of your conclusion last year that the lion does not warrant protection as an endangered species and your decision to continue allowing importation of lion trophies. Completing your rule-making process would at least establish a permit process and offer some meager protection.
# Posted By | 7/31/15 12:56 PM

These wild animals are running out of time USWFS, their survival depends on YOU, don't let us down
# Posted By | 7/31/15 7:48 PM

List them as ENDANGERED not THREATENED. We need to stop the flow of dead animal heads and other body parts into this country immediately. Cecil's senseless death has galvanized and outraged so many people. Do not dismiss your public, please. If there are too many lions left to consider them endangered by your technical definition, then change the definition. Enough already.
# Posted By Sheryl | 8/2/15 3:12 PM

This article makes me furious and sick to think how big money is obviously in charge of our countries US FWS. True that sport hunting is not the only reason for Afican lions becoming endangered, but it is a contributor. Why continue to be a contributer to the cause of these majestic animals becoming extinct?
# Posted By Michelle S. | 8/2/15 3:59 PM

All so called "Big Game 'hunting' " needs to be outlawed with severe punishment now. It is murder of this world's most magnificent and sentient beings. It is well known many of these animals are endangered. It is shocking and incomprehensible that this is still going on in 2015. It is a sad and ignorant chapter from what should be the past! The people who commit these atrocities obviously have deep psychological issues and how terrible to provide an outlet like this for them.
# Posted By Kat M | 8/4/15 12:41 PM

Make trophy hunting illegal, list Lions as Endangered and stop all importing of illegal animal parts to the US. Prosecute all Trophy hunters with severe penalties here in the U.S. and extradite them when foreign officials are requesting them for the their part in illegal hunting like the hunting of Cecil the lion. The large mammals of Africa including lions, elephants and rhinos are being killed for trophies and their tusks, horns, etc. Our government should help stop any US participation in these activities.
# Posted By Linda Lyke | 8/6/15 5:23 PM


You are not doing enough to bring Dr. Palmer to justice. He lured and shot a protected lion our of his safe haven, let it roam in pain for 40 hours then shot him, skin and beheaded him, if this isn't a crime it should be. He has been under investigation before for other wildlife crimes and he is still getting away with these illegal killings. LET'S STOP PALMER AND OTHERS ONCE AND FOR ALL.
# Posted By Marilyn | 8/11/15 1:26 PM

Of course this ahhhhh "man" should be punished for killing Cecil the Lion. He should be extradited to Zimbabwea and be punished there. Do not allow him to hide behind the American people! We don't want him!
# Posted By A Concerned Person | 8/11/15 8:01 PM

You are totally correct! What makes this person think that he has "bragging rights" in doing this? My concern is establishing whom he believes he is impressing. At a minimum, he needs to understand that these creatures are not his for the taking. This is an outrage! They are to be protected it is not relevant to say that they are not endangered when people like this are alive, then everyone is at risk.
# Posted By Colleen | 8/11/15 8:56 PM

Wildlife Service should broaden its stroke and make any trophy hunting of all endangered, threatened, or species threatened by habitat destruction illegal, including a significant fine comparable to a percentage of that person's yearly income and a mandatory jail period without parole of NLT one year. And profiles of of accused trophy hunters should be published in widely seen publications or websites (as with child molesters). Shame is a powerful way to permanently change people's behaviors. Don't overlook that technique. In addition, trophies collected oversee should be confiscated by the Service and cremated as well as any other items confirming the kill (e.g. photographs - digital and hardcopy).
# Posted By Make any trophy hunting by any U.S. Citizen of all | 8/11/15 9:00 PM

Why have you only "reached out" to Walter Palmer and only urged him or his representative to contact you? Shouldn't you have issued Palmer a notice to appear or even a subpoena to appear with criminal penalties if he does not appear?
# Posted By William Lynch | 8/15/15 10:37 PM

Please advise as to where the USFWS investigation into the convicted poacher and unlawful Hunter of Cecil, Walter Palmer is.
It is unacceptable that the last page update was the 31st July 2015.
To propose to list the African Lion without an independent population count is inconceivable? Surely, until you have genuine numbers of Lions you should be placing an immediate ban on all hunting of the species?
# Posted By m lee-gattenby | 8/17/15 4:46 PM

About two years ago, I signed the petition urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect lions under the Endangered Species Act. The end of last year the Service announced that lions meet requirements for a threatened listing, not the Endangered listing many of us (US and global citizens alike) were fighting for. Since the briefing time was announced, nothing has been heard. Americans play a huge role in the plight of lions by trophy hunting, which we feel is a deplorable practice and makes our country look bad. Many people know that many African governments are corrupted and want money and the animals end up with the short end of the deal. What is with getting numbers for lion statistics from organizations supported by Safari Club, supporters of trophy hunting? In fact, sources I used in college research papers estimate between 15&25,000 lions remain and LionAid says that very little money from trophy hunting goes to conservation or the locals. Lions need protection from hunters!
# Posted By Jeremy Pabst | 8/18/15 6:36 PM

Hunters Bagged 10,000 Lions in Africa Since 2003, Trophy Data Show 0
Given that in Africa wild lions are in catastrophic decline–the latest International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) figures suggest that fewer than 20,000 remain–it may come as a shock to discover that as many as 10,000 of the continent’s iconic big cats were legally hunted and exported as trophies in the ten years ending in 2013.

The vast majority of these lions were bred in captivity for the purpose of hunting. The mostly American and European sports hunters took the lions to their home countries as trophies–mounted heads or skins for their collections.

The tally for hunted lions is likely even higher than 10,000, says Dereck Joubert, wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, because not all hunters take trophies. Some hunt just for the sport.

Six African countries where lions still range freely–South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania–were analysed using the official CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) trade database, which lists animal and plant products exported and imported internationally.

Kenya and Botswana are two lion-range countries notably omitted from this list. Both countries have outlawed trophy hunting in an effort to boost lion populations, although Botswana only recently adopted this measure.

Even though the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists lions as Vulnerable (facing a high risk of extinction in the wild), African range lions in all six countries are listed by CITES under Appendix II, which means lion products may be exported under a permit system. Permits are granted “if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.”

South Africa Tops List

Of the six nations, South Africa ranks highest in terms of most trophies exported. The country has registered a staggering average of 748 lion trophies exported per year.

Tanzania is next with an annual average of almost 150 lion trophies, followed by Zimbabwe and Zambia (each between 60-70 a year), Mozambique (22) and Namibia less than 20 a year). Botswana, before banning trophy hunting in January 2014, tabled an average of 10 trophies each year.

The figures are not 100 percent accurate as there are a number of discrepancies that creep into the database, such as countries reporting the number of permits issued but not the actual permits used. However, the figures give a general idea of just how impactful trophy hunting is on lions.
# Posted By Don Lawrence | 8/30/15 10:45 AM

Dan Ashe..the entire world is watching, and waiting. Do the right thing to protect animals from going extinct. This should not involve killing them and putting their head on a wall! Time is running out for our magnificent animals.
# Posted By Jacque Falzone | 8/30/15 10:21 PM

It seems as though these comments are landing on deaf ears. What will it take to hold Palmer responsible for killing Cecil, who supposedly was on protected land. Palmer needs to be extradited for maiming and killing this beautiful animal. Is blood money worth a trophy animal's death and extinction? Why is nothing being done by you? Just more bureaucracy from people supposedly protecting our wildlife? Sickening!!!
# Posted By Maureen Patrone | 9/6/15 6:46 PM

Do your job. Investigate Walter Palmer. Answer calls from reporters and quite hiding behind your desks. Tell us what you are doing or not doing and why. Don't be a cowardly bureaucrat. Stop ducking. Communicate and get out front. You are shaming our entire nation.
# Posted By friendofwildlife | 9/8/15 9:48 AM

I understand the FWS Is governed by the U.S. Dept. Of the Interior. The African lion should be under the "endangered" Species Act. Lions should be Endangered for the "Entire Contient of Africa and not ""Threatened" as you and the "Safari Club". want. Money talks! Trophy Hunting must stop. Trophy hunting is supported by the Safari club who in turn is supported by the FWS. Please listen to the average joe. Listen to the people. Stop the killing. Stop the Hunting. Humans are killing for sport. Please stop. I will be copying this to the Dept. of Interior. Thank you
# Posted By Doug | 9/10/15 2:23 AM

Stop all trophy hunting of all animals worldwide. Palmer is just as guilty as the guide and farmer, he was there he was with them and he tried to cover up the killing of Cecil. Palmer knew the laws.
# Posted By Robin | 10/16/15 3:49 PM

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