A U.S. senator is responding to Cecil the lion‘s death by introducing a bill that he hopes will reduce the frequency of so-called trophy killings.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) will propose a bill to ban people from bringing animals they shot for sport back to the U.S. if the species has been suggested for addition to the Endangered Species Act as either threatened or endangered.
“Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” Menendez said in a statement. “Cecil’s death was a preventable tragedy that highlights the need to extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act. When we have enough concern about the future of a species to propose it for listing, we should not be killing it for sport.”
In true congressional fashion, Menendez’s bill will be named the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which protects animals by enforcing the Endangered Species Act, proposed in 2014 that Cecil’s species, the African lion, be designated a threatened species. But the proposal has not yet been adopted, meaning that the dentist who shot Cecil was allowed to bring him, or parts of him, back to the United States.
The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for comment on the bill.
The U.S. government cannot regulate overseas sport killings themselves, but because so many of the hunts are conducted for the purpose of bringing back parts of the dead animals, tougher import restrictions could discourage people from sport-killing in the first place.
The Zimbabwean government has asked the U.S. to extradite Cecil’s killer, and a petition on the White House website to do so has received more than 170,000 signatures in three days, far surpassing the number required to receive a government response.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday that it was in contact with a representative of the dentist and described the investigation as “ongoing.”