Appalled by the tragedy surrounding Cecil the lion, who was killed by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe, celebrities from around the world are urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize its proposed rule to protect African lions under the Endangered Species Act.

African lions currently have no protection under U.S. law, with more than 400 lions killed every year by American trophy hunters, and trophies such as lion heads, paws and other body parts free to flow across the U.S. border in unlimited quantities from anywhere in the world.

The stars write in support of efforts by The Humane Society of the United States and its global affiliate, Humane Society International. The groups first petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 for improved protections for African lions. The proposed rule would impose strict criteria for trophy imports and protect the subspecies from unsustainable hunting.

Celebrities who have co-signed the statement include: Cher, James Cromwell, Edie Falco, Jorja Fox, Ricky Gervais, Joan Jett, Leona Lewis, Bill Maher, Wendie Malick, Kate Mara, Alyssa Milano, Dev Patel, Norman Reedus, Ruby Rose, Candice Swanepoel and Olivia Wilde.

The statement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states in part: "Poachers and trophy hunters from the U.S. and other countries are driving lions to extinction. The U.S. must play its part in eliminating the threats to these beautiful animals.

“In honor of Cecil, I lend my support to The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International in urging you to include African lions on the Endangered Species Act immediately.”

Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife for Humane Society International, said: “It’s too late to protect Cecil from the ugly American hunter, but if we can get the United States to give African lions protection under the Endangered Species Act, then we will save Cecil’s family from the same fate.”

Poachers and trophy hunters from the U.S. and other countries are driving lions to extinction. Fewer than 40,000 African lions — and possibly as few as 23,000 — are estimated to remain today. Lions exist in only one-quarter of their former range and are suffering from loss of habitat and prey.

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