Enraged by Cecil the Lion’s death, two Texans seek federal ban on “senseless” trophy hunting

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, holds up a printed article from The Washington Post, as she questions Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, during the House Oversight Committee hearing to examine details surrounding a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) mug

WASHINGTON–Two Texas lawmakers want to ban trophy hunting of endangered species – too late to save Cecil the Lion, but an effort to make sure he didn’t die in vain.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, is preparing a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act to ban “all acts of senseless and perilous trophy killings.” She’s calling it the Cecil the Lion Endangered and Threatened Species Act.

“The conservation of rare and threatened species is critically important to the sustainability of our ecosystem and the beauty of wildlife as we know it,” said Jackson Lee spokesman Mike McQuerry. “It is appalling and shameful when vulnerable species are intentionally abused, killed and exterminated.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, co-sponsored a bill earlier this month to boost federal spending on international conservation efforts to protect vulnerable wild cats and dogs. Jackson Lee also supports that measure, introduced in June – before Cecil’s death – by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. A dozen of the 25 current co-sponsors, all Democrats, signed onto the Rare Cats and Canids Act on Aug. 4.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

That was just a few days after  Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer was identified as Cecil’s killer.

The shooting sparked outrage and renewed a debate over prize hunting. Advocates view it as an important tool to control animal populations and support local economies. Opponents call it a throwback to Africa’s white colonial legacy.

Cecil was a beloved icon at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Palmer paid around $54,000 for the hunt. He and hunting guides allegedly lured the big cat off park property.  Palmer took the head and pelt as a prize, after a tracking collar was removed.

Jackson Lee and Johnson are members of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, a bipartisan group “committed to raising awareness of animal welfare issues in Congress,” according to its website.

Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to House colleagues last week rounding up support for his bill.

“Beyond Cecil, over two thirds of the world’s cat species and one third of canids are recognized as species in need of protection under federal or international law,” he wrote. “By supporting the recovery of these specific umbrella species, we can have tremendous impacts on entire ecosystems.”

Lions are listed as a “threatened” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. That is one step away from “endangered.”

Forth Worth-based American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines have stopped transporting certain animal trophies.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced a bill on Aug. 3 to expand a U.S. ban on importing and exporting certain animal trophies. He calls it the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act—the CECIL Animal Trophies Act.