WASHINGTON D.C. — The African lion may be a victim of extinction by 2050, but the United States has other plans.
On Monday, the Obama Administration proposed the lion to be considered a threatened species, and that could lead to the animal becoming the last big cat protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
If the proposal reaches approval, killing and hunting lions in the U.S. without a permit will be made illegal, National Geographic reported. United States citizens will also be prohibited from selling lions or lion parts across state or international borders.
Countries that allow lion hunting would have to prove that their hunting is well-managed, National Geographic reported.
Africa's lions are considered to be threatened by their environment because of habitat loss, loss of prey and increased human-lion conflicts, according to The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The African lion — a symbol of majesty, courage and strength — faces serious threats to its long-term survival," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a news release. "It is up to all of us, not just the people of Africa, to ensure that healthy, wild populations continue to roam the savannah for generations to come.”
Lion population in Africa has declined by two-thirds since the 1980s, according to National Geographic, with just 35,000 remaining.
With the ESA, existing lion conservation programs in Africa will build on a "motivation and incentive to cooperate, and galvanizing opinion that lions are in trouble," Ashe said.
According to the release, the ESA would ensure that Americans wouldn't contribute to the decline of lions by prohibiting import, export, commercial activity, interstate commerce and foreign commerce.