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​New U.S. rules to restrict South Africa's lion hunting industry

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's lion hunting industry faces new restrictions as a result of the decision this week by the U.S. government to protect African lions under the Endangered Species Act, according to conservationists.

Under the new provisions, American hunters bringing home lion trophies will need a permit, which will only be issued if the hunt is part of a science-based conservation strategy that enhances the species in the wild, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

The new restrictions will discourage American hunters from sport hunting lions in South Africa, Humane Society International said in a statement. The organization said 620 of the 719 hunted lion trophies brought into the U.S. in 2014 came from South Africa. More than half of those were from lions bred in captivity, it said.

Trophy hunters pay between $18,000 and $24,000 to kill a five-year-old male. An eight-year-old male with an impressive mane may cost up to $75,000, according to hunting professionals.

Many of South Africa's lions that are hunted are shot in relatively small, fenced in areas, a practice called "canned hunting," said the Humane Society. The lions are bred in captivity and are familiar with people, making them easy targets for shooting in the confined areas, said the Humane Society.

"There are some very, very deep concerns about abuses in the hunting industry, specifically with the hunting of captive bred lions," said Christina Pretorius, spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare Africa in southern Africa.

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