Cecil the lion slaying spurs anti-poaching push in Washington

judyachienggenet

The killing of Zimbabwe’s beloved Cecil the lion has sparked new efforts in Washington to crack down on overseas poaching.  As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service probes Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist suspected of killing the animal, the agency has come under new pressure to finalize protections for African lions.  Lawmakers in the House and Senate, meanwhile, are calling for new restrictions on big game hunters looking to stock their dens with new trophies.  The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act announced Friday by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) would block hunters from importing lion trophies to the U.S.  “Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” Menendez said in a statement. “Cecil’s death was a preventable tragedy that highlights the need to extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act. When we have enough concern about the future of a species to propose it for listing, we should not be killing it for sport.” The bill would restrict the importation of hunting trophies from lions or other animals that are proposed for listing as threatened or endangered species, even before those protections are finalized. Animal advocates say this would remove a big incentive for American hunters to kill lions. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). In the House, two Democrats — Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) — are also calling for an import ban on lion trophies in an effort to remove the incentive for poachers.   The killing of Cecil the Lion is a “graphic example” of the larger threat to the survival of all lions, Grijalva said. “The slaughter of this lion brings it into very sharp focus,” Grijalva told The Hill. “The issue is there will never be a recovery if they continue to be hunted for trophies.”  Grijalva said he has no problem with "legitimate" hunters, but “when we’re talking about lions and species on the brink of extinction, then I think we’ve crossed the line.” “The hunters I know, the whole idea of what happened to Cecil is disgusting to them,” Grijalva said. “It has nothing to do with hunting. It’s about the ego of one guy, who wanted to brag about it to his friends.” McCollum called the shooting “callous and cruel.” “This is not sportsmanlike conduct at all, and it endangers these iconic lions,” McCollum said. “So many countries in Africa have been working with international conservation movements to go from hunting these animals to shooting them with cameras and photography,” she added. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing African lions as a threatened species last October, but those protections would not necessarily protect all lions. As a threatened species, hunters would still be allowed to shoot lions in African countries with FWS-approved conservation management plans. They would only be blocked from hunting lions in countries that don’t have such plans to thwart the extinction of the species.  This means licensed American hunters could still bring home lion trophies from certain countries under a strict FWS permitting process. “There are so many loopholes that anyone can bring them back,” Grijalva said. Menendez’s legislation leaves the door open for hunters to import lion trophies, if they have the consent of the secretary of the Interior Department. The FWS rules are more stringent for endangered species. If lions were listed as endangered, hunters would be prohibited from shooting them and bringing back trophies from any country. Palmer is accused of luring Cecil the lion out of a protected national park, where he shot and injured the lion with a bow and arrow, later tracking him down and killing him with a gun. The Minnesota dentist, who reportedly paid Zimbabwe guides more than $50,000 to secure all the permits and help him track the lion, claims he was led to believe the hunt was legal. The FWS said Friday it was in contact with Palmer’s representatives, after announcing late Thursday that they were seeking an immediate interview with the hunter.  Zimbabwean officials have asked the U.S. top extradite Palmer there to answer for his actions. "The (FWS) is deeply concerned about the recent killing of Cecil the lion," the agency said in a statement. "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." The killing of Zimbabwe’s beloved Cecil the lion has sparked new efforts in Washington to crack down on overseas poaching.
As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service probes Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist suspected of killing the animal, the agency has come under new pressure to finalize protections for African lions.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate, meanwhile, are calling for new restrictions on big game hunters looking to stock their dens with new trophies.
The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act announced Friday by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) would block hunters from importing lion trophies to the U.S.
“Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” Menendez said in a statement. “Cecil’s death was a preventable tragedy that highlights the need to extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act. When we have enough concern about the future of a…

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