Here is a short test -- which of the following items are illegal to import into the United States?
b). Lion Carcass
d). Live Birds
Actually, they are all illegal, with the exception of the lion carcass -- which is incentive enough for those like television host, Melissa Bachman, to travel to Africa to hunt and kill one of the world's most iconic but also severely imperiled species just for the "sport" of it and a photo op.
With as few as 32,000 lions remaining in the wild, the once ubiquitous animals are rapidly disappearing from the African landscape. Habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict are the primary reasons, but trophy hunting is responsible for the slaughter of about 600 of the animals each year.
And, approximately 60 percent of all lions killed for sport are shipped to the U.S. as trophies -- an act made possible by the fact that the African lion is not protected currently by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The petition was written by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, along with other animal protection groups like Born Free and Humane Society International, and if it is successful, American trophy hunters will no longer be able to bring lion trophies or parts for commercial sale back into the U.S.
Which brings us again to Melissa, and the other American hunters who engage in vainglorious trophy hunts.
The African lion is a species that is experiencing a downward spiral toward extinction. The sport killing of these cats clearly sends a message that these majestic animals are more valued dead than alive, as the much-publicized image of Melissa grinning over the slain great cat certainly echoes.
We hope that Americans will speak up for lions and let the U.S. government know that lions should be conserved and protected -- not shot for fun. Tell the US Fish & Wildlife Service to list African lions as endangered throughout their range under the ESA.
This is how Americans can make a real difference in helping imperiled species like lions (helpafricanlions.org) by celebrating their conservation -- not by glorifying their needless slaughter.
Jeff Flocken is the North American Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). To learn more about IFAW's work to protect African lions, visit HelpAfricanLions.org.