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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

GREAT JOB you guys!!!

The only reason Oryx are alive and well today in Texas is because ranchers raised them and protected them. They did this because they had economic incentives (from hunting fees) to protect them. The Oryx paid their own way. Unfortunately with this ruling, there is now zero incentive for landowners to continue to breed and protect these species. This is a hollow victory for Friends of Animals, and may lead to a serious decline in the U.S. populations of these species. I know these comments will not go over well, but they are the truth. [Blog editors' note: Your truth is hilarious. The homeland for oryxes, dama gazelles and addax is Africa, not Texas, and rachers are not protecting them from horrors and demise by selling them to hunting ranches. Breeding them so that they're shot by trophy hunters on fenced estates in Texas should be considered a crime, and now that's the case since we won the ruling in court. It's a victory for three endangered species of antelopes, the law students in Denver and Friends of Animals. May we never hear the mantra again that animals channeled to slaughter are "paying their way." What a clueless remark.]

Let me make a hopefully less controversial observation: Oryx are extinct (or close to it) in their native habitat. There are healthy populations of oryx on ranches in the U.S.. But for the U.S. populations of oryx, scimitar-horned oryx would be much closer to global extinction (something we all want to avoid). Now for the controversy: oryx were thriving on U.S. ranches prior to the U.S. District court decision. Why? [Blog editors' note: Here's FoA's view: We retintroduced oryxes into Senegal about two decades ago. They're protected from hunters and 50 live today in relative freedom. Oryxes, gazelles and addax on hunting ranches exist to be shot to death so that warped people can admire their heads on a wall. Shooting antelopes isn't the same as (1) protecting them, or (2) saying they're "thriving." They're not thriving when they're minutes, days or weeks away from being airlifted to the other side of a fence at a hunting ranch that throws the gate open to some buffoons with rifles. That's an abomination.]

I appreciate your view. Let me follow up with real experience. We were delivered a small herd of 5 oryx 8 years ago. We have not hunted or killed a single animal. The herd now numbers in 30-35 range. Biologists tell us that the older bulls need to be removed to prevent them from breeding the offspring. We have a choice: trap and sell the old bulls, or cull them. Of course, we could leave the bulls, risk genetic deterioration of this herd, and lose a rare genetic resorce (a healthy herd of oryx). I would love to see the herd grow larger, but we have limited space. At some point, our herd will exceed our carrying capacity. We have no natural predators to keep the population in check. I don't know the answer, maybe Chad will purchase them and protect them. I know we have done a good job of protecting them and allowing them to thrive unmolested. If we have to cull, I would prefer to have some income and control. I know that I cannot convince FoA that any killing can be done humanely, but there are certainly more humane ways than others. I know this is a hostile forum, but I don't think name calling advances ideas. I appreciate the opportunity to present an alternative point of view. [Blog editors' note: You can't convince the courts that you're entitled to harm or destroy animals who are listed on the Endangered Species Act. That's the reality check given the Judge's ruling. Since the animals are captive, you can separate males from females to prevent breeding, or have a veterinarian vasectomize males. Chad is a very impoverished country, and like Senegal, when oryxes or dama gazelles were flown into these regions for reintroduction programs, zoos and reserves donated animals and others covered payment for transportation and other costs. No African nation can pay you to repopulate their nations with oryxes. Antelopes would have to enter a protected, reintroduction program before they're eventually released into Nature.]

i have a question for ted, why do you even have these animals on your land? are you a zoo or some type of a charity that tries to save endangered species. neutering the older males would problaby solve your problem of weakening the herd, and as far as having to many in the herd, can't you give them to a zoo. if they're an endangered species, i don't see why no zoo would not want to take them. i just cant understand why somebody would have 30-35 of these animals.it sounds like you want good intentions for these animals, but you just have too many of them. [Blog editors' note: Zoos have bred and sold these animals to hunting ranches, too. Now that's prohibited.]

go shoot yourself in a field and feed the animals. then you would actually be helping the animals. FoA comments: Shooting animals, any animal, is not a solution to helping animals -- not exploiting them is the solution. Bang! Sounds like you just shot yourself in the foot.

I think we have a responsibility to protect animals as we have a responsibility to do the same for each other. Killing is not the answer. We need to quit imposing and spreading a "human" lifestyle and let other species enjoy their own habitats. We can continue to educate and help others find solutions. But first, we have to care.

The population of orxy in Texas is more accurately numbered near 8000 by Texas Parks and Wildlife, this population far outnumbers red lechwe (less than 1000) even though similar numbers were imported. Lechwe have been protected from hunting for over 10 years and the population continues to go down; while oryx numbers have blossomed under the the previous rules. Although I find hunting distasteful, it is naive in the extreme to think that ranchers can afford to raise these species with no source for income from them. For those that think that orxy only belong in zoos, or in Africa, you are not doing the species any favors. Zoos put them into small enclosures which are a far cry from the open plains that they inhabit in Texas. The problems in Africa that led to the species decline are well documented and not likely to change anytime soon. Where would the animals come from, anyway, to restock their home range in Africa? Looking at the numbers in Texas, the previous rules were working. I don't see this rule change doing anything good for the species. [Blog editors' note: Zoos breed animals and discard others. Friends of Animals doesn't bellieve that oryxes or other animal belong in zoos. A decade ago, FoA sent 8 oryxes to Senegal in a rehabilitation effort, and today 50 or more live there in a expansive, protected reserve. That's where oryxes belong -- in their natural habitat and the same is true for dama gazelles, addax and other free-living animals. When these animals were captive bred in Texas, they existed as living targets for hunting ranches. That's a morally corrupt idea.]

Although I agree the best place for any species is its' native habitat, 8 animals does not constitute a breeding herd. That is too small a gene pool for it to be healthy. If any effort is made to increase genetic diversity in that herd, animals from Texas ranches should be utilized. Also, how do you counter the African Red Lechwe argument? These animals have enjoyed the protection that the oryx now have for 10+ years, and their numbers have continued to go down. Lechwe are not as critically endangered in Africa as oryx, but shouldn't the goal for any endangered species be to have the highest herd size worldwide? Thank you for the previous response, I look forward to your next. Travis [Blog editors' note: Scimitar-horned oryxes were extinct in nature, so reintroducing them will take time and considerable effort. New individuals will undoubtedly arrive from captive efforts, and if Texas ranches wish to contribute oryxes to a reintroduction effort in West Africa, that's news to us. As you know, African Red Lechwe are targets of trophy hunters in both Texas and Africa, and the great majority inside Africa live outside protected parks and reserves. To increase antelope numbers from approximately 500 individuals, hunting pressure must collapse. Lechwe calf mortality is already high. The goal for endangered species is to be let alone in protected habitat. Overall population counts are less relevant than the quality of their lives. ]

To my knowledge, red lechwe can only be hunted on ranches with a herd size greater than 50. Of which there are only two in Texas. So the basic question that must be answered is absolute extinction preferable to species survival, if it means that it would have to be on game ranches outside of their native habitat? [Blog editors' note: No one survives on a hunting ranch unless they're the armed, two-legged hunter.]

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