U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Positive Finding on Groups' Petition to List Lions as EndangeredWASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the African lion may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), following an initial review of a petition seeking to protect the species which was filed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society International (HSI), Born Free USA, Born Free Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife and the Fund for Animals. The groups thanked the federal agency for its preliminary positive 90-day finding on the petition to protect lions. "Today's decision is an important first step as we work to protect the African lion—a species confronted with mounting threats and a steep population decline," said Jeff Flocken, DC Office Director, IFAW. "The ESA is the most powerful law we have to safeguard the African lion against the unnecessary threat of U.S. trophy hunters." The number of African lions has declined by more than 50 percent in the past three decades, with fewer than 35,000 believed remaining today. Despite the significant and continued declines in population and range, the number of lion trophies imported to the United States is increasing. Listing the African lion as Endangered would generally prohibit the import of lion trophies into the United States, an essential step to reversing the current decline of the population. "African lions are in danger of losing the land they require in order to thrive, are exposed to a variety of deadly diseases, are slaughtered for their meat and organs or in retaliatory killings – including by gruesome poisoning – as a result of livestock predation, and are killed for trophies and commercial sale of their parts," noted Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA. "The US government deserves high praise for taking the necessary first step toward ensuring a chance at survival for this beleaguered species." "The African lion has been pushed to the brink of extinction in part by irresponsible American trophy hunters," said Teresa Telecky, Director, Wildlife Department, Humane Society International. "It's time for the U.S. government to recognize the perilous state of this species and put the brakes on killing rare animals to get one's name in a trophy book." Now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued its positive preliminary 90-day finding on the petition, the agency will next receive information from scientists and the public about the status of the African lion to determine whether an endangered listing would be appropriate.