WASHINGTON, June 29, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One year ago, an arrow was fired into Cecil, a beloved lion, commencing a heartbreak that would be felt around the world. Cecil, was lured, wounded by an arrow, then ruthlessly tracked for approximately 40 hours before finally being killed on July 1 by an American trophy hunter in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Today the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) remembers Cecil's life and the countless other wildlife that have been lost to trophy hunting—including the tens of thousands more since this tragedy—and the work that is left to save those remaining.
Cecil's death was not an isolated incident. African lion populations have experienced devastating population declines, by 60 percent, over the past three decades, with as few as 20,000 remaining in the wild. Despite the significant and sustained declines in population and range, caused by a variety of threats, lions continue to be needlessly hunted for sport and their trophies imported to the U.S.
However, IFAW is encouraged by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's recent decision to provide protections for all lions under the Endangered Species Act. This came as a response to a technical petition that was filed by IFAW, Humane Society International and Born Free in 2011.
"It is our hope that these stricter protections, stopping the importation of any lions killed in a country with questionable wildlife management programs, will also limit the demand to kill them abroad, given that Americans hunters are responsible for the bulk of the slaughter," said Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director, IFAW."
IFAW recently released Killing For Trophies: An Analysis of Global Trophy Hunting Trade, a report that provides an in-depth look at the scope and scale of trophy hunting trade and isolates the largest importers of animal trophies worldwide. The report found that African lions in particular had the strongest statistically significant increase of trophy hunting trade since 2004, with at least 11,000 trophies being traded worldwide from 2004 to 2013. The report further found that the U.S. accounted for a staggering 71 percent of the total trophy hunting import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nation on the list—Germany and Spain (both 5 percent).
"While trophy hunting remains extremely unpopular in the court of public opinion, it continues to be an accepted practice in many countries—where wealthy hunters are allowed to kill endangered or imperiled animals, simply to serve as the centerpiece of their décor. IFAW will continue to fight and advocate on these animals' behalf until these beautiful creatures are no longer looking down the barrel of a gun," added Flocken. "As we remember Cecil, let's not allow his death to be in vain; we hope it will remain a catalyst for further action to end trophy hunting for good."
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com
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SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare