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Groups Call on US Government to Help Protect African Lions

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As strange as it may sound, the African lion might qualify for protection under the United States' Endangered Species Act.

Various groups looking out for the welfare of this animal say that there are now only 35,000 African lions surviving today -- a decline of 50 percent over the past decade.

One of the reasons for this sharp drop-off has to do with a boost in lion trophies being imported to the U.S.

The Born Free Foundation says lions already have to contend with disease, being slaughtered for meat and being killed by animal predators, which is obviously out of U.S. jurisdiction.

But a move by the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider a petition to protect lions from American trophy hunters could help stave off their ultimate extinction, the groups said.

Along with the Born Free Foundation, the petition was sought by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International and Defenders of Wildlife and the Fund for Animals.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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