January 02, 2016

Lions Gain New Endangered Species Protections


Two lion subspecies will now be protected by the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today (Dec. 21).

Panthera leo melanochaita, a lion subspecies living in eastern and southern Africa, will be listed as threatened, while Panthera leo leo, a subspecies found in western and central Africa and in India, will receive endangered status, FWS officials said. New genetic data prompted the agency to recognize western and central African lions as subspecies P. leo leo, and spurred their"endangered" classification.

"Subspecies" defines groups within species that are genetically distinct but still capable of interbreeding. A 2014 proposal had prompted the FSW to grant the western and central African lions "threatened" status. But according to today's FSW announcement, scientific information indicated that lions in those areas were actually more closely related to Asiatic lions and that they should be identified as such — P. leo leo. [In Photos: A Lion's Life

With many thanks to Live Science



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