A coalition of wildlife advocates has sought US endangered status for the African lions. They say the battle to save the animals from extinction in their homeland should begin in the United States.
The group claims trophy hunting, or killing lions for sport, is one of the biggest factors contributing to the declining numbers of African lions.
The animals are already threatened by increasing human encroachments and disease. The group also says the United States is the leading importer of lions and lion parts.
Wildlife conservation groups have filed a petition with the Department of Interior to list the animals as Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Adam Roberts, executive vice president of conservation group Born Free USA, says listing the animal as Endangered in the United States would make it harder for trophy hunters in America to import lion parts into the country.
Describing the future of African lions as perilous, Mr Roberts said that trophy hunters in America in 2008 imported twice as many lion parts as they did 10 years earlier.
Advocates hope protection for the lions under the Endangered Species Act will help raise global awareness of the plight of the African lion and increase its numbers.
"Look, we saw what happened historically with the tiger. At the turn of the 20th century there were 100,000 tigers in the wild, now there's fewer than 4000. So we need to learn from our conservation historical mistakes and make sure the same thing doesn't happen to another big cat, in this case, in Africa," said Roberts.
Conservation groups estimate that over the past two decades, the population of African lions has plummeted by at least 48.5 percent to fewer than 40,000 animals. The decrease comes as a result of retaliatory killings, loss of habitat, prey species, over-exploitation by recreational trophy hunters and commercial trade, disease, and other human-caused and natural factors.