N.J. lawmakers propose legislation inspired by Cecil the lion

By Amy R. Connolly  |  Updated Aug. 1, 2015 at 3:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A New Jersey lawmaker said he plans to introduce legislation that would curb the sport killing of potentially threatened or endangered animals after a Minnesota dentist killed a popular lion during African hunting expedition.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., announced Friday the CECIL, or Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies, Act would extend restrictions on the import and export of animals under consideration for inclusion on the Endangered Species Act.

The proposed legislation comes after Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer stalked and killed a popular African lion named Cecil while on a hunting trip in Zimbabwe. Officials said Palmer and his guides lured the animal out of the protected Hwange National Park. Friday, Zimbabwe officials called on the United States to extradite Palmer to face charges for violating poaching laws.

"Let's not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings," Menendez said in a written 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."

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., are co-sponsors of the legislation.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has suggested African lions be listed as "threatened," the current import and export restrictions only apply to animals already on the list.

Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, faces criminal charges for his alleged involvement in Cecil's shooting because he was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for the year. Honest Trymore Ndlovu, the landowner where Cecil was killed, was also being accused of colluding with the hunters. It's unclear if Palmer violated any U.S. laws with regard to Cecil's killing.

Danielle Haynes contributed to this report.

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