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Friends of Animals Win: African Antelope Shielded From Safari Club and Trophy Tourists

June 23, 2009 | Environment / Press Releases / Hunting Ranches / Hunting & Wildlife Management / Free-Living Animals / Take Action

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

Priscilla Feral, President, Friends of Animals, Darien, Connecticut
Current tel: (at Primarily Primates sanctuary): 830.755.4616, or mobile: 203.219.0428. E-mail

Mike Harris, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic,
University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Denver, Colorado
Tel: 303.871.6140, or mobile: 720.841.0400. Email

WASHINGTON DC - A decision has been issued in FRIENDS OF ANIMALS v. KEN SALAZAR (Civil Action 04-01660): The Interior Department's US Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by issuing a blanket exemption allowing trophy hunting at U.S. ranches of endangered African antelopes.

Friends of Animals ("FoA") and others sued the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior on the grounds that the Service unlawfully exempted US-bred scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelles from prohibitions against harming, harassing, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting endangered species.

Section 10 of the ESA allows some uses for "scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species," if the government publishes notice and allows for public comment for each "good faith" application for an exemption or permit at every stage of the proceeding. It does not provide a means to authorize the sport hunting of these animals.

The antelopes at issue are native to northern Africa. Today, addax and dama gazelles are nearly wiped out, due to hunting, war, desertification of habitat, human settlement and agribusiness. Scimitar-horned oryx are virtually extinct; most live on Texas hunting ranches, where they are bred. In 2005, following a Friends of Animals lawsuit, these antelopes were listed as endangered, but the government issued a rule creating a loophole for captive-bred antelope, claiming "captive breeding in the United States has contributed significantly to the conservation of these species."

"This is disingenuous," said Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals, noting that the Service's exemption follows similar fragmentations of ESA listings, resulting in removal of protections for gray wolves, Gunnison's prairie dogs, and Queen Charlotte goshawks for political and commercial purposes.

Under Bush's leadership, the federal government has eroded the Act's protections to cater to local governments and special interests. In July 2008, for instance, the Service removed protections for Preble's meadow jumping mice in Wyoming while keeping the Colorado populations on the endangered species list -- so protections would end at the state line.

"The Obama administration must reject this fragmentation of the Endangered Species Act," said Hall. "We're glad the party's over for ranches that allow hunters to kill antelopes, typically pimping the oryx for around $3500 each, and the gazelles and addax for more."

The Endangered Species Act's subsection 10(c), said the court, shows that Congress intended an individualized permitting process, to provide meaningful public participation. Yet advocates have been kept from even finding out which ranches were operating under the loophole. The Safari Club, which intervened as a defendant, said advocates could find their information on the Internet.

But US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. wrote, "Blanket exemptions under regulations are anathema to this intention because they allow the FWS to permit a great number of exemptions at once without providing the detailed information to the public that would be required in an individualized analysis."

Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral expressed appreciation for the outstanding work of the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic. Feral added, "We are heartened by the message the federal court has sent this week against exploitation. Why would the government allow the hunting of these antelope any more than they'd allow the hunting of a chimpanzee?"

"We'd like the federal government to protect the animals currently in captivity, who number about 2000 or more, from harm at the hands of hunting enterprises."

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Comments

This basic question concerning a species survival is not a joking matter. In wildlife management, you manage for herds, not individuals. If the death of one "trophy" male can pay for the feed for a herd of 10 for a year, the population will increase. The fact that the scimitar horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelle populations have thrived under the "pay your way" scenario that existed prior to this ruling cannot be ignored. Even if you despise all forms of hunting, the management of something as fragile as a critically endangered species warrants a pragmatic approach. FoA comments: But wildlife management is a joke, not a science. The term species is an artificial construct -- species do not exist, individuals do. And as your interest in preserving species extends only as far as to species that can pay their own way, you are making a personal economic statement and not a scientific or pragmatic one.

I am not economically attached to this issue anymore than you are, I am simply someone who has first-hand real life experience in wildlife management. And I know for a fact that economic incentives are the only way that ranchers can afford to feed any animal that competes for food on their ranch. Obviously the moderator and I have made up our own minds on this subject. I do appreciate that FoA allowed for a contradictory opinion on this subject to be posted. Which will, perhaps, inform those that have not made up their mind. Thanks Travis FoA comments: If you are not attached, as you state above, to the economic arguments for the breeding and slaughter of oryxes, please stop presenting such arguments. Oryxes are sentient beings, made of flesh and blood, and not hard, cold cash.

Unfortunately we have to live in the real world. If the economic incentive does not exist to keep these critically endangered species from going completely extinct, they will. This is precisely why they are in such bad shape in Africa. If tourists dollars (or hunters for that matter) are great enough to keep a village fed, the village will not convert oryx habitat to tilled fields or improved grasses. Because the money wasn't there, now the oryx aren't either. The current state of native oryx habitat (whether in a preserve or otherwise) is not enough to be sustainable long term. I would rather live with a flawed system that keeps absolute extinction from becoming reality. FoA comments: Fortunately we live in a real world and one of it characteristics is that it can be changed. For the precise reason that Oryxes are threatened in Africa is that they and their habitat are treated as economic commodities. Treating them the same way here in the US is not a solution. Perhaps you are astute enough to notice that most of the destruction in the world is due to human greed and the general pursuit of economic success. If you don't see that, then you are not living in the real world. Saving a species is irrelevant if the individuals of that species are sacrificed. If the survival of the human race could only be guaranteed by killing 95% of it and putting the rest in alien zoos, a sane person would not call that a success.

I spoke with an owner of a ranch in Hondo Texas and he says that they are shooting the shit out of the animals while they can before the regulations go into effect. Congratulations Tree Huggers, You have now made the Texas herd of scimitar horned Oryx extinct. [Blog editors' note: Thanks for the alert as the shooting is already illegal and we'll pass it on to authorities. Oryx, dama gazelles and addax are not native to Texas, and their absence from hunting ranches is a fine idea. Calling someone a tree hugger sounds infantile.]

FoA comments: For those of you who have the time, below is an attempted rebuttal to FoA's beliefs and pursuits in having animals live free without exploitation by humans. Please note, FoA's role in this is neither due to greed or its pursuit of economic success. It will welcome the day when it no longer has to protect animals and their environment from greedy, self-centered humans. Reader's comment follows: “Perhaps you are astute enough to notice that most of the destruction in the world is due to human greed and the general pursuit of economic success.” I would tend to agree. That being said, wouldn’t you agree, in some astute circles this would be called “natural selection”? In others, it might perhaps be defined as “human nature”. And since “individuals” within the FoA species are “living within the real world” (proclaimed), and are subject to greed and the general pursuit of economic gain, I ask the following questions: 1) what is the FoA agenda in this matter? Friends of Animals claim, ‘they want change’. Ok, but that change comes at 2) whose expense? Furthermore, what economic gain can possibly be achieved by pushing FoA’s Agenda? Let’s take a non-emotional straight forward look at this since we have two sides of an argument. On one hand, we have those who partake in animal husbandry-culling may or may not be a necessity. On the other, we have those who would rather see animals wild and free-indifferent to and unaffected by the actions of man (rarely happens). Both sides have clear missions. The objectives behind these missions vary-for some reason though, it always seems to boil down to human greed and the pursuit of economic success. I would say it’s safe to assume both sides have clear and definitive ideas/methods to protect wildlife-I think this goes without question. The means to accomplish the missions differ… Now, as the facts are being presented here, one side (FoA) is clearly condemning the other. Moreover, Friends of Animals is doing every thing in their power to “take” everything the other side has built-despite clear evidence to the effect that animal husbandry (a science), both past and present, works, internationally, with regard to protecting animals! I ask again, who is being greedy and why? You want change? Then, you go first! Commodities hold value; pests are eliminated. Be careful with your actions Friends of Animals. You may be signing death warrants! You would better serve the world pursuing those who starve horses to death.

"FoA’s beliefs and pursuits in having animals live free without exploitation by humans". Really? ... "Please note, FoA’s role in this is neither due to greed or its pursuit of economic success." Again, really?... FoA comments: Yes, really, and again, really.

FoA, and their ilk, somehow believe humans are different from animals, yet the same. Predators in the wild are fine eating other animals and enjoying their position as predator, yet humans can not. Why? If animals are sentient, as you've said, and enjoy hunting and eating each other, and that’s not “morally wrong”, then why is it “morally wrong” if a human does it? I guess I’m just not smart enough to understand why enjoying my predator lifestyle is suddenly wrong after possibly 40,000 years of human existence. As for the economics of the issue, it’s entirely clear to any thinking person. It’s clear that FoA is happy to see species become extinct. The taking of an animal life by a human is just plain wrong and there can be no justification for it – period. ...FoA, you have a right to believe the way you do. Where we have a problem is that you seek to impose your beliefs on the rest of us. You spend your money in courts, not on animals. You seek to take my rights away instead of furthering your own ideas through persuasion and a committed lifestyle. No one is telling FoA, and their kind, they can not believe as they do. No one is telling FoA, they have no right to their opinion. I wish FoA could return the courtesy. FoA comments: It appears the only thing you got right is that you're "not smart enough." FoA did not spend a dime to bring this case to court.

Am I to understand that FoA members do not believe in paying money to eat an animal? FoA comments: Yes, nor in eating them for free.

FoA, what will happen to the individual antelope on these ranches? This court ruling has now put businessmen/ranchers in a bind. They will undoubtedly cut their losses. Are we to assume these individual antelope will live out their lives peacefully on these ranches? Are there plans in place to rescue each individual antelope so that they aren't in danger? You said you have released 8 oryxes in Senegal. What about the Addaxes and Damas? Do you have any success stories about them? [Blog editors' note: The Judge's ruling prohibits the killing of these antelopes on ranches. We're not sure what you should assume from that, but the unfortunate animals belong to the ranchers by law, and it's unlawful to kill them. We're not aware of Addax reintroduction efforts in Africa, but Dama gazelles have been reintroduced along with oryxes in Senegal. Both antelope species share the same reintroduction areas. ]

I have 20 oryax. How much have you spent on helping, feeding, and management? I dont mean to get in a fight about them. But if the law passes I will let them go out the gate or be harvested. What a bad thing you are doing. If it was not for Texas there would be hardly any if not ZERO oryx. Maybe in zoos living a caged life. WoW you guys are something. Look at the facts before you make any judgment. I am asking you to please look and research what the exotics mean to us and to the world. FoA comments: Yes, look at the facts. FoA has spent far more money than you in reintroducing oryx to their native land in Senegal. FoA has spent not one dime on raising oryx to be slaughtered in hunting ranches. To FoA, "exotics" are not something to exploit and kill. Evidently, oryx mean very little to the likes of you.

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