U.S. President Donald Trump‘s decision to lift a ban on elephant trophy imports caused uproar this week, with animal rights advocates denouncing the move.
But the administration also quietly passed similar rules for another species – lions.
Last month, the U.S. began issuing permits for lion trophies to be brought into the country. ABC News reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicated it believes controlled and regulated hunting could help increase the animal’s population.
Hunters can now apply to bring lion trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia, and parts of South Africa into the country, the government is considering broadening the rule to include Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania.
According to the government’s website, hunters can apply for permits to bring home the dead animal, and the application process typically takes 45 to 60 days. It’s unclear how many permits have been given since the Trump administration’s rule change.
Importing parts of a lion’s body into the U.S. was restricted in 2016, after the controversy caused by the hunting death of Cecil, a lion that was gunned down by a Minnesota dentist. Under the Obama administration, lions were listed as endangered for the first time.
According to Panthera, an animal advocacy group dedicated to large felines, lions have gone through a “catastrophic decline” in population. There are about 20,000 wild lions left in all of Africa.
“Lions are extinct in 26 African countries and have vanished from over 90 per cent of their historic range,” the group’s website explains.
President of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, published a scathing blog post on the move Thursday, disputing the government’s claim that hunting can help conservation efforts.
“African elephants and African lions drive billions of dollars of economic activity in Africa,” he wrote. “But they drive that activity only when they are alive. Killing them deducts from their populations, diminishes wildlife-watching experiences for others, and robs the countries of Africa of its greatest resources.”
“The folly that the killing helps lions and elephants is just that – pure folly. We’ll see the agency in court.”
The new elephant trophy hunting regulations mirror the ones for lions and will open up imports for animals killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
African elephants are also listed as an endangered species.