[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 228 (Tuesday, November 27, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 70727-70733]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28310]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025; 450 003 0115]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition to List the African Lion Subspecies as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the African lion (Panthera leo 
leo) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). Based on our review, we find that the petition presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
listing this subspecies may be warranted. Therefore, with the 
publication of this notice, we are initiating a review of the status of 
the subspecies to determine if listing the African lion is warranted. 
To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, we are requesting 
scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this 
subspecies. Based on the status review, we will issue a 12-month 
finding on the

[[Page 70728]]

petition, which will address whether the petitioned action is 
warranted, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act.

DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request 
that we receive information on or before January 28, 2013. The deadline 
for submitting an electronic comment using the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 
this date. After January 28, 2013, you must submit information directly 
to the Branch of Foreign Species (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 
section, below). Please note that we might not be able to address or 
incorporate information that we receive after the above requested date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search field, enter Docket No. FWS-
R9-ES-2012-0025, which is the docket number for this action. Then click 
on the Search button. You may submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment 
Now!'' If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please 
use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most 
compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach your 
comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft 
Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our 
preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
     By hard copy: U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments 
Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025, Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept comments by email or fax. We will post all 
comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we 
will post any personal information you provide us (see the Information 
Requested section, below, for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chief, Branch of Foreign Species, 
Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North 
Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703-358-2171. 
If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.


Information Requested

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing a species may be warranted, we are 
required to promptly review the status of the species (conduct a status 
review). For the status review (also called a ``12-month finding'') to 
be complete, and based on the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we request information on the African lion from 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any 
other interested parties. We seek information on:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species and its 
    (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a)(1) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    (3) Data that support or refute:
    (a) Panmixia (having one, well-mixed breeding population), 
including evidence of genetic differentiation that may result in traits 
such as selective growth, sex ratios, increased vulnerability to 
threats, or habitat preferences;
    (b) Existence of population structure to the degree that a threat 
could have differentiating effects on portions of the population and 
not on the whole species; and
    (c) Statistically significant long-term African lion population 
    (4) Information on the correlation between climate change and 
African lion population dynamics, including, but not limited to:
    (a) Climate change predictions as they relate to drought, 
desertification, and African lion food availability, either directly or 
indirectly through changes in regional climate; and
    (b) Quantitative research on the relationship of food availability 
to the survival of the species.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include. 
Submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action 
under consideration without providing supporting information, although 
noted, will not be considered in making a determination. Section 
4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any 
species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ``solely on 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.''
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. If you submit information via 
http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission--including any 
personal identifying information--will be posted on the Web site. If 
your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal 
identifying information, you may request at the top of your document 
that we withhold this personal identifying information from public 
review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on  http://www.regulations.gov.
    Information and supporting documentation that we received and used 
in preparing this finding is available for you to review at http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment during normal business hours at 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Branch of Foreign Species, 
Endangered Species Program, Arlington, VA (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 

Evaluation of Information for a 90-Day Finding on a Petition

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424 set forth the procedures for adding a 
species to, or removing a species from, the Federal Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be determined to be 
an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    In making this 90-day finding, we evaluated whether information 
regarding threats to the African lion, as presented in the petition and 

[[Page 70729]]

information available in our files, is substantial, thereby indicating 
that the petitioned action may be warranted. Our evaluation of this 
information is presented below.


    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted 
with the petition, and information otherwise available in our files. To 
the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 
days of our receipt of the petition and publish our notice of the 
finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day 
petition finding is ``that amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial 
scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly initiate a species status review, which we subsequently 
summarize in our 12-month finding.

Petition History

    On March 1, 2011, we received a petition dated March 1, 2011, from 
the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the 
United States, Humane Society International, the Born Free Foundation/
Born Free USA, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Fund for Animals, 
requesting that the African lion subspecies be listed as endangered 
under the Act. The petition clearly identified itself as such, and 
included the requisite identification information, as required by 50 
CFR 424.14(a). We acknowledged receipt of the petition in a letter to 
Mr. Jeff Flocken dated July 17, 2011. This finding addresses the 

Previous Federal Action(s)

    Although the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) has been listed as 
endangered under the Act since 1970, the African lion (Panthera leo 
leo), is not listed as either endangered or threatened under the Act. 
The African lion is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on 
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES). A discussion of its listing with respect to CITES can be found 
under the Conservation Status section below.

Species Information

    The African lion belongs to the class Mammalia in the family 
Felidae. There are two recognized subspecies of lion: Asiatic lion 
(Panthera leo persica) (Meyer 1826) and the African lion (P. leo leo) 
(Linnaeus 1758).
    The African lion subspecies is a habitat generalist, which 
historically excluded it only from areas such as rainforest and the 
arid interior of the Sahara (Ray et al. 2005, p. 66; Nowell and Jackson 
1996, p. 19). They live in groups called prides, which usually contain 
between 5 and 9 adult females (Petition, p. 17). This species inhabits 
arid habitats such as the Kalahari Desert and the Kunene region of 
northwest Namibia; however pride sizes are typically smaller in arid 
regions (Stander & Hannsen 2001 in Ray et al. 2005, p. 66; Haas et al. 
2005, p. 5). Lions typically hunt in groups, are opportunistic 
carnivores, and are primarily active at night (Haas et al. 2005, p. 5).
    Lions are sexually dimorphic (differences in size, coloration, or 
body structure between the sexes); males weigh between 20 and 27 
percent more than females (Petition, p. 17). Adult males have been 
recorded to weigh an average of 181 kilograms (kg) (399 pounds), and 
adult females were observed to weigh an average of 126 kg (278 pounds) 
(Smuts 1976 in Nowell and Jackson 1996, p. 17). Researchers observed 
females eating an average of 8.7 kg (19.2 pounds) per day during the 
dry season, and 14 kg (31 pounds) per day in the wet season (Haas et 
al. 2005, p. 5). Males were observed to eat up to twice as much as 
    Lions have no fixed breeding season, and they give birth to between 
1 and 4 cubs (Petition, p. 17). Females may give birth beginning at 4 
years of age (Petition, p. 17), and female reproduction begins to 
decline between 11 and 15 years of age (Nowell and Jackson 1996, p. 
19). Often the females in the pride give birth at the same time, which 
may add to the reproductive success of the pride as a whole (Nowell and 
Jackson 1996, p. 18). Each pride requires a home range of between 20 
and 500 square kilometers (km\2\) (8 and 193 square miles (mi\2\)). In 
the wild, males live between 12 and 16 years but have been reported to 
live up to 30 years (Shoemaker and Pfaff 1997 in Haas et al. 2005, p. 
5; Guggisberg 1975 in Nowell and Jackson 1996, p. 19).

Population Estimates

    The most quantitative estimate of the historic size of the African 
lion population resulted from a modeling exercise by Bauer et al. 
(2008) that predicted there were 75,800 African lions in 1980 (Bauer et 
al. 2008, p. 1). As of 2008, the International Union for Conservation 
of Nature (IUCN) estimated that the population declined 30 percent over 
the past 20 years (Petition, p. 6). Currently African lion experts 
estimate that the population size is fewer than 40,000, with an 
estimated population between 23,000 and 39,000 individuals (Petition, 
p. 6; Bauer et al. 2008, p. 1). This is based on the results of two 
separate assessments. Bauer and Van Der Merwe estimated the African 
lion population is between 16,500 and 30,000 individuals (2004, p. 26); 
Chardonnet (2002, Chapter 2, p. 32) estimated the population is between 
28,854 and 47,132 individuals. In 2004, the estimate for West and 
Central Africa combined was 1,800 individuals, with all populations 
being small and fragmented (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004, p. 27). The 
petition notes that although subpopulations of interbreeding lions in 
West Africa have been grouped differently (Bauer and Nowell 2004; 
Chardonnet 2002), there is acknowledgment that the overall population 
is likely small and declining.
    Various researchers and entities, such as the African Lion Working 
Group (ALWG), describe groups of lions as being organized into 
subpopulations, and the degree to which these groups interbreed is 
unclear (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004, pp. 27-30). In research 
conducted by Chardonnet et al., three subpopulations were described as 
consisting of 18 groups, between which there may be some interchange of 
individuals, although the amount of interchange is unknown. The size of 
the largest population in West Africa is also unclear. For example, the 
ALWG, an organization dedicated to the conservation, research, and 
management of free-ranging lion populations in Africa, estimates there 
are 100 lions in Burkina Faso's Arly-Singou ecosystem (Bauer and Van 
Der Merwe 2004, p. 28), while Chardonnet (2002) estimates 404 
individuals in the same area (Chapter 2, Table 12, p. 39). However, 
both surveys found that only 5 percent of West African lion population 
estimates met scientific statistical standards. The remainder of the 
estimates was believed to be less reliable (Bauer and Nowell 2004, p. 

[[Page 70730]]


    Researchers believe that the African lion now occupies a range of 
less than 4,500,000 km\2\ (1,737,460 mi\2\), which is 22 percent of the 
subspecies' historic distribution (Bauer et al. 2008, pp. 1-2). One-
half of the total African lion population now likely exists in 
Tanzania, while viable smaller populations remain in Kenya, South 
Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia (Frank et 
al. 2006, p. 1). The population estimate for East Africa was 11,000 
individuals as of 2004 (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004, p. 27). These 
authors noted that the two largest populations were in the Serengeti 
and Selous ecosystems of Tanzania (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004, p. 
27). For southern Africa, the population estimate was 10,000 
individuals, with the majority being in Botswana and South Africa (p. 
27). Most lions in the Central African region are found in the Sahel 
savannah belt (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004, p. 30). The petition 
indicates that viable populations of African lions existing in 
protected areas occur in only about 5 percent of the subspecies' 
currently occupied range, and 1 percent of the subspecies' historical 
continent-wide range.
    The petitioners indicate that since 2002, several African lion 
populations that have been studied have either declined or disappeared 
altogether (Henschel et al. 2010, pp. 34, 39). The petitioners assert 
that the latest available information suggests the African lion exists 
in 27 countries (Petition, p. 7; Henschel et al. 2010, p. 34), which is 
a rapid decrease from its reported existence in 30 countries in 2008 
(Bauer et al. 2008, p. 1). This subspecies may no longer exist in 
Congo, C[ocirc]te d'Ivoire, or Ghana (Henschel et al. 2010, p. 34).

Conservation Status

    The petition indicates that in the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened 
Species, the IUCN classified the African lion as ``Vulnerable'' with a 
declining population trend, which means it is considered to be facing a 
high risk of extinction in the wild (Bauer et al. 2008, p. 1). This 
classification is based on a suspected reduction in population of 
approximately 30 percent over the past two decades (Bauer et al. 2008, 
p. 1). Because there are believed to be fewer than 1,500 lions 
remaining in West Africa, lion populations in this region as of 2005 
were classified by the IUCN as ``Regionally Endangered'' (Petition, p. 
11; Bauer and Nowell 2004, p. 35). Bauer and Nowell indicated that the 
lion population of West Africa is geographically isolated from the lion 
populations in Central Africa, and there is little to no exchange of 
breeding individuals (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004; Chardonnet 2002). 
However, it should be noted that IUCN rankings do not confer any actual 
protection or management.


    The African lion is listed in Appendix II of CITES. CITES is a 
multinational agreement through which countries work together to ensure 
that international trade in CITES-listed species is legal and not 
detrimental to the survival of the species. There are currently 175 
CITES Parties (CITES signatory countries), including the United States. 
To ensure sustainable use, Parties regulate and monitor international 
trade in CITES-listed species--that is, their import, export, and re-
export--through a system of permits and certificates. CITES lists 
species in one of three appendices--Appendix I, II, or III. Species 
such as the African lion that are listed in Appendix II of CITES may be 
commercially traded. CITES Appendix II includes species that ``although 
not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so, unless 
trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in 
order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.'' The 
status of the African lion with respect to CITES and how it is affected 
by trade is discussed below under the Evaluation of Factors section.

CITES Periodic Review of Felidae

    Although we are not considering this information in this 90-day 
finding in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, the African 
lion is currently under a periodic review of the CITES Appendices being 
conducted by the CITES Animals Committee, led by two range countries 
for the African lion, Kenya and Namibia. This periodic review is based 
on a recommendation by a Working Group at the 25th meeting of the CITES 
Animals Committee (AC25) held in July 2011, which recommended that the 
African lion be considered for inclusion in the Periodic Review of 
Felidae, as part of the Periodic Review of the Appendices (AC25 Doc. 
15.2.1). The Animals Committee adopted this recommendation at AC25. The 
decisions and working documents can be located on the CITES Web site at 
http://www.cites.org/eng/com/ac/index.php. Our status review under the 
Act will consider the results of the review being conducted through the 
CITES process. During the status review, the Branch of Foreign Species 
will consult with the U.S. Division of Scientific Authority, an office 
within the Fish and Wildlife Service that is directly involved in the 
work of the CITES Animals Committee, including the Periodic Review of 
the African lion. Additional information about CITES may be found on 
the CITES Web site at http://www.cites.org.

Evaluation of Petition

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    The petition (p. 7) asserts that the African lion now occupies less 
than an estimated 4,500,000 km\2\ (1,737,460 mi\2\), which is only 22 
percent of the subspecies' historic distribution (Bauer et al. 2008, p. 
1). Recent research suggests the African lion exists in 27 countries 
(Henschel et al. 2010, p. 34), while just a few years ago in 2008, it 
was believed to exist in approximately 30 countries (IUCN 2008, Bauer 
et al. 2008, p. 4), indicating that the populations of the African lion 
continue to decline.
    The petitioner states that the loss of habitat and corresponding 
loss of prey are serious threats to the survival of the African lion 
(Ray et al. 2005, pp. 66-67). The petition points to a study (Ray et 
al. 2005), led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), that 
indicates habitat loss is principally driven by the conversion of lion 
habitat to agriculture and grazing as well as human settlement (Ray et 
al. 2005, pp. 66-67); however, desertification is also indicated to be 
a factor (Petition, p. 21; United Nations Economic Commission for 
Africa [UN ECA] 2008, pp. 4-5; Bied-Charreton 2008, p. 1). 
Desertification, defined as a process of land degradation in arid, 
semi-arid, and dry, sub-humid areas, is also affecting this species' 
habitat (UN ECA 2008, p. 3). Ray et al. note that where ``protection 
[for the lion] is poor, particularly outside protected areas, range 
loss and population decreases can be significant.'' Researchers further 
note that African lion population declines have been the most severe in 
West and Central Africa, with only small, isolated populations 
remaining scattered chiefly through the Sahel area. Lions are declining 
even in some protected areas and, with the exception of southern Chad 
and northern Central African Republic, are virtually absent from 
unprotected areas (Ray et al. 2005, p. 67; Bauer 2003, p. S113).
    The 2005 WCS study found that most lion populations in protected 
areas of East and southern Africa have been essentially stable over the 
last three

[[Page 70731]]

decades (Ray et al. 2005, pp. 67, 69). However, sub-Saharan Africa 
experienced a 25 percent increase in the amount of land allocated to 
agriculture between 1970 and 2000 (Chardonnet et al. 2010, p. 24). The 
significance of the increase in the land being used for agriculture is 
that there is a higher human population density, and there is a 
negative correlation between lion density and human density (Chardonnet 
et al. 2002 in Chardonnet et al. 2010, p. 24). This species' habitat 
has decreased in part due to the conversion of wild habitats into areas 
suitable for livestock farming, which causes environmental degradation 
and the loss of plant and animal biodiversity (Chardonnet et al. 2010, 
p. 25). Ray et al. note that although the African lion has a wide 
tolerance, African lions are sensitive to loss of cover or prey, and 
the African lion's way of life and habitat needs are generally 
incompatible with human activities. Habitat conversion, especially for 
agriculture, has encroached heavily upon lion habitat throughout the 
species' range (Ray et al. 2005, p. 69). This has resulted in 
widespread extirpation, fragmentation, and reduced densities of lion 
populations (Bauer & Van der Merwe 2004 in Ray et al. 2005, p. 69; 
Nowell & Jackson 1996). The increase in conflict is primarily due to 
the intense persecution of lions in areas as a result of depredation on 
livestock (Ray et al. 2005, p. 68). The petition provides additional 
citations and information about historical and current impacts to 
habitat from current or future threats due to these practices within 
the subspecies' range as supporting information (Petition, pp. 21-22). 
In summary, we find that the information presented in the petition, as 
well as the information available in our files, indicates that the 
African lion may be impacted by the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    The petition asserts that the African lion is overutilized to a 
great extent for trophy hunting (Petition, pp. 22-23; Packer et al. 
2009, p. 2). The overall effect of trophy hunting on African lion 
populations is currently unclear. Submitted with the petition, a report 
prepared by WCS in 2005, noted that Creel and Creel (1997) found little 
evidence that the decrease in populations due to hunting altered the 
density of lions in Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania (Ray et al. 2005, p. 
70). The petition asserts that between 1999 and 2008, 21,914 African 
lion specimens (lions, dead or alive, and their parts and derivatives), 
representing a minimum of 7,445 lions, were traded internationally for 
all purposes (pp. 7, 23; Appendix A). It should be noted that a 
specimen could be a whole animal, or multiple products made from one 
animal. The World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations 
Environment Programme (UNEP-WCMC) maintains a database on international 
trade of wildlife taxa that are included in the CITES appendices on 
behalf of the CITES Secretariat. This trade database, referenced in 
Appendix A of the Petition, is based on trade reports from the CITES 
Parties and is available to the public at http://www.unep-wcmc.org/citestrade. Each Party to CITES is responsible for compiling and 
submitting annual reports to the CITES Secretariat regarding their 
country's international trade in species protected under CITES. Of the 
trade described in the petition, the United States reportedly imported 
13,484 lion specimens coded as being from a wild source between 1999 
and 2008 (62 percent of the total). The petition also notes (p. 23) 
that the number of trophies traded internationally in 2008 (1,140) was 
larger than any other year in the decade studied and more than twice 
the number in 1999, which was 518 trophies.
    In addition to the trade described above, the petition (pp. 24-25) 
indicates that, between 1999 and 2008, 3,102 lion specimens, equivalent 
to likely at least 1,328 lions (which includes trophies, skins, live 
animals, and bodies), were traded internationally via CITES permits for 
commercial purposes (Petition, Appendix A).
    The petition reports that, for commercial purposes, the most common 
lion specimens traded were claws (number = 764), trophies (508), skins 
(442), live animals (3,208), skulls (144), and bodies (58). The 
petition also indicates that, of this trade, 1,846 lion specimens were 
imported into the United States, and suggests this may be equivalent to 
at least 401 lions. The petition notes that other significant importers 
other than the United States were South Africa, Spain, France, and 
Germany (Petition, p. 23). The petition also notes that the primary 
exporting countries of lion parts for commercial purposes were Zimbabwe 
(914 specimens), South Africa (867), and Botswana (816) (Petition, 
Appendix A). The petition concludes that these three countries 
accounted for 83.7 percent of all specimens in commercial trade 
(Petition, pp. 24-25, Table A9).
    Hunting of lions for trophies does occur regularly and provides 
revenue for many countries in the African lion's range. This practice 
allows for conservation measures to be implemented for this subspecies. 
Some countries have implemented measures to mitigate the decrease in 
lion population numbers based on the effects of trophy hunting on 
African lion populations (Packer et al. 2009, p. 2). Countries have 
instituted moratoriums on hunting lions for trophies (Botswana in 2001-
2004, Zambia in 2000-2001, and western Zimbabwe in 2005-2008), and have 
implemented measures such as banning the hunting of female lions from 
the hunting quota (for example in Zimbabwe, starting in 2005) (Packer 
et al. 2009, p. 2). However, lion populations appear to continue to 
decline (see discussion under Population Estimates, above). 
Additionally, the petition claims that, in some cases, lions are being 
killed by bushmeat poachers to ensure easier hunting and less 
competition for bushmeat species because lions compete for species 
favored by bushmeat hunters (Joubert and Joubert, pers. comm. 2010 in 
Petition, p. 21).
    In addition to the removal of lions from the population due to 
trophy hunting, there is concern that the use of lion body parts is 
contributing to the decline in African lion populations. Lion bones are 
being exported to Asia for use in traditional Chinese medicine, in part 
as a replacement for tiger parts, which have been more strictly 
regulated within the recent past (Nowell and Ling 2007, pp. 30-32). 
Body parts from the African lion are also used for traditional purposes 
in Africa as well as in Asia. For example, body parts of lions, 
including fat, skin, organs, and hair, are highly valued for treatment 
of a variety of different ailments in Nigeria, with lion fat being the 
most highly valued (Morris undated [n.d.], pp. 1-2). A household 
questionnaire distributed in rural communities within the range of the 
African lion found that 62 percent of respondents reported using lion 
fat in medicine, with just over half of those respondents reporting to 
have used it in the last 3 years (Morris, n.d., p. 6). The putative 
medicinal benefits are the healing of fractured and broken bones, and 
the alleviation of back pain and rheumatism (Morris, n.d., pp. 5-7). 
The petition claims that, in some African countries such as Guinea-
Bissau and parts of Guinea, hunting African lions for their skins for 
use in traditional ceremonies is considered to be the primary threat to 
lions, and cited Brugiere et al. 2005. The use of lions in traditional 
African medicine also occurs in East Africa, although it is not well

[[Page 70732]]

documented in this region. For example, in May 2010, it was reported 
that five lions killed close to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda 
were poisoned for their skin and medicinal value (Karugaba 2010, p. 1). 
Lion fat is also used in traditional medicine in Tanzania (Petition, p. 
41; Baldus 2004, p. 15).
    In summary, we find that the information presented in the petition 
and in our files indicates that overutilization may be occurring with 
respect to the African lion.

C. Disease or Predation

    The petition (p. 9) states that diseases such as canine distemper 
virus (CDV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and bovine 
tuberculosis are viewed by experts as threats to the African lion 
(Roelke et al. 2009, pp. 1-4; Cleaveland et al. 2007, p. 613; Michel et 
al. 2006, p. 92). In addition to long-standing ambient diseases that 
occur in the African lion subspecies, the growth and expansion of the 
human population may be exposing African lions to new diseases (IUCN 
Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group, 2006b, p. 19) to 
which African lions may have little or no immunity. For example, CDV, 
which is normally associated with domesticated dogs, has affected some 
lion populations (Cleaveland et al. 2007, p. 613). In 1994, the 
Serengeti lion population experienced a 30 percent mortality rate due 
to a CDV epidemic (Roelke-Parker et al. 1996 in Roelke et al. 2009, p. 
8). In 2001, in Tanzania, mortality occurred in approximately one third 
of the Ngorongoro Crater lion population, also primarily due to CDV 
(Munson et al. 2008, p. e2545). With respect to FIV, there are several 
strains which apparently are highly divergent. However, the extent to 
which FIV negatively affects the African lion in the wild is unclear 
(Packer pers. comm. in Baldus 2004, p. 58).
    Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a disease believed to have been caused 
by the importation of cattle from Europe (Michel et al. 2006, p. 92) 
and is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. This is significant 
because in many areas, buffalo are the primary prey of lions. The 
petition indicates that during one study conducted in Kruger National 
Park in South Africa, more than 80 percent of lions were found to be 
infected by bTB and cites Renwick et al. 2007. Lions affected with this 
bacterium experienced respiratory problems, emaciation, lameness, and 
blindness (Petition, p. 44; Renwick et al. 2007, p. 533). Another study 
found that approximately 20 percent of infected lions did not show 
evidence of the disease, and 80 percent became infectious (i.e., 
diseased and contagious) within a 5-year period (Keet et al. 2009, pp. 
5, 13, 34). However, despite the high prevalence of lions infected with 
this bacterium, the Kruger lion population has remained stable during 
the past 20 years (Ferreira and Funston 2010, p. 195).
    Given the high level of mortality due to diseases that occur in 
African lions, particularly newly introduced diseases and the potential 
pathways for exposure, we find that the information provided in the 
petition indicates that the African lion may be impacted by disease.
    The petition does not present information to indicate that listing 
the African lion may be warranted due to predation, nor do we have 
information in our files suggesting that predation to African lions 
impacts the subspecies, although infanticide is discussed under Factor 
E, below.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petition asserts that there are several existing regulatory 
mechanisms that are inadequate with respect to the African lion 
(Petition, pp. 45-53). Some of the regulatory mechanisms cited by the 
petitioners as being inadequate include: The Rotterdam Convention; the 
African Union Conventions (Petition, pp. 47-48); the Southern African 
Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law 
Enforcement; the Lusaka Agreement; the U.S. Endangered Species Act 
(Act); the U.S. Lacey Act (Petition, pp. 49-50); the U.S. Federal 
Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); and domestic laws 
within the African lion's range countries (Petition, pp. 51-52). Some 
of the impacts that may occur due to inadequate existing regulatory 
mechanisms are discussed in the other factors, such as the loss of 
habitat (Factor A), overutilization for the international wildlife 
trade (Factor B), and effects of inappropriate use of pesticides 
(Factor E) (Petition, p. 7). Due to the numerous regulatory mechanisms 
involved, in part because the African lion's range spans approximately 
30 countries, we will not evaluate this factor in depth at this 90-day 
finding stage. We acknowledge that information regarding this factor 
was submitted with the petition. Based on the interrelationship between 
regulatory mechanisms and the other factors, we find that the 
information provided in the petition and in our files indicates that 
existing regulatory mechanisms may be inadequate in reducing or 
removing effects associated with certain factors identified in the 

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Other Sources of African Lion Mortality


    The petition asserts that a secondary, related effect of removing 
lions through trophy hunting on the African lion occurs due to the 
behavior of infanticide by adult male lions (Petition, pp. 23-24; 
Davidson et al. 2011, p. 114). When male lions take over a pride, they 
often kill the lion cubs. The petition asserts that this is significant 
because trophy hunters preferentially seek adult male lions, which has 
cascading effects on a pride. When an adult male lion associated with a 
pride is killed by a trophy hunter, surviving males who form the 
pride's coalition may become vulnerable to takeover by other male 
coalitions, and this often results in injury or death to the defeated 
males within the pride. Replacement males that take over a pride will 
also usually kill all cubs that are less than 9 months of age in the 
pride (Whitman et al. 2004, p. 175; Nowell and Jackson 1996, p. 18). 
This practice of killing lion cubs sired by other males is common in 
this species (Nowell and Jackson 1996, p. 18). Because this behavior is 
common, the removal of the dominant males in prides through trophy 
hunting has the effect of not only removing one or two older males, but 
rather several individuals including the younger cubs from the pride.

Human-Lion Conflict

    Retaliatory killing, even with respect to other predatory species, 
affects lions (Petition, p. 53). Killing of lions because the lions 
kill livestock has been indicated to be the most serious threat to 
these large carnivores (Chardonnet et al. 2010, p. 11; Baldus 2004, p. 
59). Local communities often retaliate against livestock-killing lions 
(Petition, pp. 53-54; Packer et al. 2011, p. 150; Chardonnet et al. 
2010, p. 11; Kissui 2008, p. 422). WCS found that between 1997 and 
2001, approximately 3 percent (number = 93) of the lion population was 
killed on farm land adjacent to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, 
Botswana (Frank et al. 2006, p. 1; Castley et al. 2002 in Ray et al. 
2005, p. 68). Lions in Amboseli National Park were exterminated in the 
early 1990s, and three-fourths of the lions in Nairobi Park were 
speared by local tribesmen within the period of a year (Packer pers 
comm. in Baldus 2004, p. 59). Because humans are now moving into land 

[[Page 70733]]

dominated by wildlife, there is more conflict between predators such as 
lions and humans. Adding to the potential incidences in human-lion 
conflict, the human population is expected to increase significantly in 
the next 40 years, particularly in the range of the lion (Petition, p. 
20; United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs [UN DESA] 
2009, unpaginated). In addition to deliberate killing of lions, lions 
are killed inadvertently. For example, in northern Serengeti National 
Park, lions were almost entirely extirpated in the 1980s by poachers 
setting snares for herbivores (Packer et al. 2011, p. 149; Sinclair et 
al. 2003, p. 289).

Compromised [Genetic] Viability

    The petition indicates that the African lion is increasingly 
restricted to small and disconnected populations, which may increase 
the threat of inbreeding (Petition, p. 54). The petition claims that 
large lion populations with 50 to 100 prides are necessary to avoid the 
negative consequences of inbreeding and cites Bjorklund 2003, pp. 515-
523. The petition avers that population connectivity is essential in 
order to allow males to travel to other areas in order to preserve 
genetic variation. The petition suggests that the lions in Ngorongoro 
Crater, Tanzania, may be inbred, and subsequently their vulnerability 
to disease may be increased. Compared with many other mammal species, 
the population resilience of the lion is high (Chardonnet et al. 2010, 
p. 10). The African lion is capable of producing many young each year, 
and its reproductive cycle is not limited to a particular season, so 
the species is able to rapidly recover from losses to its population 
(Chardonnet et al. 2010, p. 10).
    The information contained in the petition and in our files 
indicates that there are several other natural or manmade factors such 
as human-lion conflict and infanticide by African lions that may result 
in negative impacts on the African lion.


    On the basis of our review under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, we 
determine that the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing the African lion as 
endangered throughout its range may be warranted. This finding is based 
on information provided under the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range (Factor A); 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes (Factor B); disease (Factor C); the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms (Factor D); and other natural or manmade 
factors affecting the subspecies' continued existence (Factor E). The 
petition does not present substantial information to indicate that 
listing the African lion may be warranted due to predation, nor do we 
have information in our files suggesting that predation to African 
lions impacts the subspecies. The African lion's range spans 
approximately 30 countries and the factors affecting this species are 
complex and interrelated. The petition asserts that the subspecies no 
longer exists in 78 percent of its historic distribution (Bauer et al. 
2008). Although there is insufficient information in the petition to 
substantiate that lions may warrant listing as endangered due to 
compromised genetic viability, we will evaluate this factor in 
conjunction with other potential threats during the status review. 
Because we have found that the petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing the African lion may be warranted, 
we are initiating a status review to determine whether listing the 
African lion under the Act as endangered is warranted.
    The ``substantial information'' standard for a 90-day finding 
differs from the Act's ``best scientific and commercial data'' standard 
that applies to a status review to determine whether a petitioned 
action is warranted. A 90-day finding does not constitute a status 
review under the Act. In a 12-month finding, we will determine whether 
a petitioned action is warranted after we have completed a thorough 
status review of the species, which is conducted following a 
substantial 90-day finding. Because the Act's standards for 90-day and 
12-month findings are different, as described above, a substantial 90-
day finding does not mean that the 12-month finding will result in a 
warranted finding.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this 90-day finding is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request 
from the Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).


    The primary author of this finding is Amy Brisendine, Branch of 
Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: August 23, 2012.
Dan Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-28310 Filed 11-26-12; 8:45 am]