In response to a recent D.C. Circuit Court opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revising its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species. We are withdrawing our countrywide enhancement findings for a range of species across several countries. In their place, the Service intends to make findings for trophy imports on an application-by-application basis. Click here for the memo.

Hunting as a Conservation Tool

For decades, hunting has been an important tool for U.S. wildlife managers, helping to protect and restore dozens of native wildlife populations from elk to ducks, and mule deer to wild turkeys. American hunters make up the largest proportion of people who hunt overseas, placing our nation in a key role to support science-based, well-managed hunting programs abroad. 

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted to protect all lions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) while acknowledging that sport hunting could play a significant role in their conservation. Our nation has an obligation under the ESA to make sure U.S. hunters are contributing to the conservation of lions in the wild by participating in hunting programs that provide a clear conservation benefit and contribute to the long-term survival of the species in the wild.  

Two subspecies of lion are designated under the Endangered Species Act:

  • Panthera leo leo - listed as Endangered.
  • Panthera leo melanochaita - listed as Threatened, with a 4(d) rule that establishes a permitting requirement that ensures that hunting contributes to the survival of the species in the wild.

Please refer to the Endangered Species web page for additional information on these listings, including a range map for each subspecies.

How does the Service decide whether to allow the import of a hunted lion?

To determine whether to allow imports of hunted lions, the Service considers factors such as the biological needs of the species; possible threats to the populations; current population estimates; management programs; legal protection (including hunting regulations and any applicable quotas); local community involvement; and, if any funds are generated by the import, how those funds are used for conservation.

Ready to Apply?

There are several steps that you need to take when applying to import your sport-hunted lion trophy. We recommend planning ahead and applying before you book your hunting trip to ensure that the necessary permits can be obtained.

Import Permit: Please complete application form 3-200-20.  

Export Permit: All lions in Africa are also listed in Appendix II of CITES and a CITES export permit is required from the country where the trophy is taken. Contact the CITES authorities in that country for additional information and instruction.

Import Clearance Procedures: Most hunting trophies imported from Africa must come through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated port. For additional information, please refer to guidance from the Service's Office of Law Enforcement.