Breaking! U.S. House Democrats Advance Bill Protecting Lions & Elephants From Trophy Hunting; Also Approve Protections For Sharks And Big Cats

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The United States House Natural Resources Committee advanced several bills last week that would increase protection for imperiled wildlife, including legislation that would restrict imports of hunting trophies from dead African lions and elephants.

The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, H.R. 2245, is named after the beloved Cecil the Lion, who was slaughtered in 2015 by trophy hunter Walter Palmer of Minnesota. The bill bans U.S. imports of lion and elephant trophies from Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The legislation also requires meaningful restrictions to ensure that trophies can only be imported if the exporting nation meets minimum standards of transparency, accountability and lack of corruption.

“We’re thrilled these majestic animals are on the way to finally getting real protection from unscrupulous trophy-hunting schemes,” Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Lions and elephants should be admired as they roam in the wild, not have their heads hanging on someone’s wall.”

Today’s legislative activity comes days after the Center uncovered that the Trump administration authorized a U.S. hunter to import a lion trophy from Tanzania; the first import from that country since lions were protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2016.

“Lion populations continue to decline, yet the Trump administration is letting rich Americans kill these imperiled animals for fun,” said Kurose. “The CECIL Act will throw a much-needed lifeline to Africa’s wildlife. It is a big step toward giving these magnificent animals a fighting chance at recovery.”

The Natural Resources Committee also approved legislation that would crack down on the global trade in shark fins through the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 737), which would prohibit the import, export, possession, trade and sale of shark fins in the United States.

Shark finning is the cruel practice of cutting off a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive, and discarding the body into the ocean. The fins are used in soups and other dishes, even though the fins themselves are flavorless.

Also approved was a third bill that would prohibit private individuals from owning big cats as pets. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380) makes it illegal for a private individual to keep big cats such as lions, tigers and cougars as pets. Big cats are often kept in abusive and unsafe conditions in basements or backyards.

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