Law to Protect Wild Cats Introduced

A new law would secure funding for protecting big cats like lions and tigers as well as canid species.

A new law would secure funding for protecting big cats like lions and tigers as well as canid species.

A new bill based on successful conservation laws in Africa is receiving praise from Born Free USA, a welfare and wildlife conservation group. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced H.R. 2697, legislation that would provide funding for the conservation of wild cats and dogs (felids and canids), again this year, after an earlier version of the bill (H.R. 5836) failed to pass in 2014.

Many of these felid and canid species were once considered common but are now declining due to threats like habitat loss and disease, which means that long-term survival for them is in jeopardy.

There are 37 wildcat species in the world but all only three of them are not in need of protection. Twenty of the 36 wild dog species are similarly in need of protection.

H.R. 2697 is based on laws that were enacted to conserve African and Asian elephants, tigers, rhinos, great apes, marine turtles and migratory birds. Such laws have funded projects that have significantly aided vulnerable species.

 “Reversing the global decline of felid and canid species demands a profound international investment and I commend Representative Grijalva for taking action,” says Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation. “Felid and canid species around the world are simply unable to cope with the endless barrage of threats before them, including hunting, disease, and habitat destruction. Reversing the population declines that most of these species face requires the conservation leadership long shown by the U.S. government.”

Born Free is especially concerned with lions and Ethiopian wolves. An estimated 32,000 or fewer lions remain across Africa, which is more than a 50% decline since 1980. Poisoning, shrinking habitats, lack of prey species, trophy hunting, poaching and illegal trade have all taken their toll on wild species.

West African lions have it especially bad with only 400 remaining in the wild. There are fewer than 500 adult Ethiopian wolves, which is one of the rarest carnivores in the world. They are living in small, isolated populations within Afroalpine regions of Ethiopia. They are severely threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, rabies and hybridization with domestic dogs.

“There must be resources available so that meaningful action can be undertaken to protect these and other species,” said Roberts. “West African Lions, Ethiopian wolves, and other imperiled felids and canids are running out of time. I strongly urge members of Congress to support the Rare Cats and Canids Act and ensure its swift passage.”

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