Hunters who wish to kill lions in Africa will have a very hard time importing them into the USA with effect from 22 January 2016. This doesn't apply to lions that have been killed before this date, but hunters will still need to convince authorities that they have the necessary paperwork to support the hunt.

The USA went ahead and declared the lions of southern and central Africa to be “threatened with extinction” and lions from other parts of Africa as “endangered." New regulations mean that hunters wishing to bring in trophies will need to apply for special import permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Services (UFW).

Hunters who wish to obtain the permit will also need a CITES export permit from the country of origin.

The permit applicants will need to prove to the US government that the hunting and importation of lion trophies will help in the long-term survival of the species. Applications to import any lion trophies from the canned hunting industry of South Africa are unlikely to be considered at all. South African hunters who offer canned hunting to safari clients have claimed in the past that their hunting facilities can remove pressure from wild lion populations. To date, the US has not accepted this as there's little scientific evidence to back up the claim.

The Daily Caller online News quoted UFW as saying that a lack of “peer-reviewed science” about canned hunting will make it very hard to get an import permit. In the meantime, not everyone is convinced that trophy bans are the long-term answer to the preservation of Africa’s wildlife.

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Professor Bradshaw at Adelaide University in Australia wrote in a co-authored paper recently that regulations are needed to control the industry. However, he stressed that there are concerns that if hunting falls away, wilderness areas could become marginalized and turned over to subsistence agriculture.

Hunting has long been used as a management tool in Africa, and part of the success of large tracts of conserved land in Zimbabwe and Mozambique is credited to financing by hunters. The US has to deal with one of the world’s largest black market wildlife trafficking problems. Some people might suggest the US would be better off dedicating their time to closing off the illegal trade before penalizing legal hunters.

Environmental groups and animal activists would like to see a total ban on hunting, and the introduction of the new regulations can be claimed as something of a step in the right direction. In 2015, American Walter Palmer shot Cecil, the collared lion in Zimbabwe. The incident raised worldwide awareness about the status of lions in Africa.