WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday proposed listing the African lion as threatened after a study showed the big cats were in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
A listing as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act would bar trafficking of the species as it faces dwindling habitat in Africa and more competition with humans.
African lions, or Panthera leo leo, are found across a wide range in the continent, but about 70 percent, or 24,000, of them live in only 10 major strongholds, the service said in a statement.
Listing the African lion as threatened "will bring the full protections of U.S. law to lion conservation, allowing us to strengthen enforcement and monitoring of imports and international trade," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said.
The main threats to the African lion are loss of habitat and of the animals lions prey on, and increased conflict with humans, the statement said.
People and farming and grazing activities have expanded into lion habitat and protected areas, putting more livestock near the big cats. As hunters reduce the number of animals that lions feed on, lions kill more livestock, leading to retaliatory killings by humans.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is also proposing a rule that would set up permits for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies. Sport-hunting is not seen as a threat to the species, the statement said.
The Endangered Species Act bars such activities as import, export, commercial activity, interstate commerce and foreign commerce. It also heightens awareness of listed species and can provide financial aid to efforts to conserve them.
The proposal to list the African lion as threatened follows a 2011 petition from a coalition of organizations. The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments for 90 days on its proposal.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Doina Chiacu)