Lion 'Trophy' Importation Ban Was Quietly Lifted by Trump Administration in October
By David Leestma
Last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFSW) began issuing hunting permits for the import of lion trophies hunted in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Although the USFSW announced Wednesday it was lifting a ban on the import of elephant trophies, the new guidelines for importing sport-hunted lions have been quietly in effect and permits have been accepted since Oct. 20. Due to a 45-day waiting period, it's unclear if any permits have been granted so far. The decision is touted as "contributing to the conservation of lions in the wild" on the USFSW website.
The U.S. government, in addition to Zambia and Zimbabwe, allows permits for wild lions and lions from managed areas in South Africa and is reviewing permits for importing lion trophies from Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania.
The USFSW's decision aligns with congressional Republicans' recent history of removing endangered species protections and proposing bills that remove non-native species—such as lions—from protected status.
President Donald Trump's sons are also known to be avid trophy hunters. In 2012, pictures surfaced showing Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. posing with a dead elephant and leopard.
The word "trophy"—derived from the Greek word "trophos" that referenced the acquisition of nourishment, as well as "tropaion," or body parts captured in battle—has worked its way into mainstream references to lion hunting. But its association belies its modern nature in which a person with a long-range rifle kills a lion from a safe distance.
Between 1993 and 2014, populations of African lions declined by 43 percent, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN classifies lions as "vulnerable to extinction," one step away from endangered. Lion's IUCN classification is propped up by a 12 percent population increase in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Outside of these four countries, lion populations have fallen by an average of 60 percent. In 2016, the Obama administration listed the lion as a threatened species and placed tighter restrictions on bringing back heads, paws and other body parts.
FSW officials said the decision was made after concluding that regulated hunting would help the survival of endangered species in the wild. Some conservationists dispute that claim, saying that tourism by people who want to view animals brings in far more money. The IUCN, however, contends that trophy hunting can have a potentially positive effect on lion conservation, but warns that poor regulation also contributes to population declines.
It's unclear whether Zambia or Zimbabwe are well-positioned to effectively regulate trophy hunting. Zimbabwe is in the midst of power struggle that has seen a military takeover and the detention of its 37-year president Mugabe. Zambia, although progressing in terms of political development, continues to struggle with corruption, according to Transparency International.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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