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Wildlife Legal News

Our society created a legal system to resolve disputes and declare rights. While the system is designed to give humans an opportunity to be heard, it often neglects the lives of animals, especially wildlife.  Friends of Animals seeks to utilize and develop laws in a way that offers animals representation too. Wildlife legal news covers stories from around the world about how the law is being used, or abused, to control the fate of human-wildlife interactions. It also contains updates on cases that Friends of Animals is pursuing. 

Wildlife Law Program Press Releases

Week of September 22, 2014

1) World Rhino Day aims to bring attention to the plight of the rhinos and other wildlife in today’s poaching crisis (The Huffington Post, The Dodo) 

Today is World Rhino Day, which celebrates the five species of rhinos throughout the world. Rhinos unfortunately face serious threats from poachers, due to a growing market for rhino horns. 

Three employees of Kruger National Park, in South Africa, were arrested recently after being discovered with a rifle and ammunition in an area of the park known for its rhino poaching problem. The three are suspected of poaching there. There is definitely concern about this case of corruption, but the alleged poachers do not detract from the efforts of the other employees that remain constantly dedicated to protecting the rhinos in the park. South Africa is trying to tackle its poaching crisis, but the cause to save rhinos and other targeted wildlife species is one that all countries must support.  

Countries that do not implement anti-poaching laws could soon find themselves at odds with the US. A bill was recently introduced here that could entail the US sanctioning uncooperative countries that do not have anti-poaching laws and enforcement mechanisms. The legislation, called the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range Act, was presented by Congressman Peter DeFazio. The legislation targets the ivory trade, as well as trade in other products. Potential targets of this legislation, according to The Dodo, could include China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Uganda, the Philippines, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

2) While the fight to end the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City rages on, Israel becomes the first country to impose a national ban on horse-drawn and donkey-drawn carts (The Dodo) 

Israel made waves as it enacted a national ban on horse-drawn and donkey-drawn carts on its city streets. While this is a victory for the animals, unfortunately, an unsavory provision for the industry still exists-- carts that are used for tourism purposes are still allowed to operate. 

With horse-drawn carriage bans already in place in many US cities (The Dodo reports that Biloxi, Mississippi, Key West and Treasure Island, Florida, and Palm Beach, Pompano, and Camden, New Jersey have banned the practice), our hope is that bans continue to take hold across the world and that exceptions for tourism or other activities are also eliminated. 

3) An update in the battle to end Japan’s whaling program (The Denver Post)

Last week, we brought you news about Japan’s plans to continue its whaling “research” despite strong international opposition and a lack of proven scientific reasons for the program’s continuance.

Last Thursday, an international whaling conference meeting in Slovenia voted down Japan’s whaling plans . However, even after the vote, Japan renewed its commitment to continue hunting whales in the Antarctic, resuming its program in 2015. Unfortunately, Japan is not required to have approval from the International Whaling Commission to continue its “scientific hunt.”  However, after capturing 252 minke whales in southern waters last year alone, it is unlikely that Japan’s whale hunts will cease to be contested on the international level anytime soon. 

4. Controversy stems from the possible end to a federal red wolf recovery program in North Carolina (Public News Service)

After a brush with near-extinction, North Carolina’s red wolves now number around 100. For the past three decades, a recovery program led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has helped to protect the wolves and boost their numbers once again. 

Now, during a public comment period, USFWS is asking the public whether the program should continue. Without it, the fate of the red wolves is highly uncertain. 

Wolves are often stigmatized as being aggressive animals, and for this, actions towards them can often become very political. 

To comment on the proposed action to end the recovery program, e-mail



Week of September 15, 2014

1) Japan continues to hunt whales, while the international community offers tighter protections for marine life (The Denver Post, The Dodo)

Scientific research is one exception to the international ban on whaling, and Japan claims that its whaling activities fall within this realm of scientific purposes. However, the International Court of Justice does not agree. Earlier this year, it ruled that Japan's hunt is not scientific and kills large amount of whales for no real justifiable reason. Still, Japan continues to hunt. 

As Japan resists international calls to stop whaling, Australia, which is against commercial whaling, has recently stepped up its commitment to its great white sharks. A lack of knowledge about the potential negative impacts of the country’s great white shark cull means that the practice is likely to end. Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority itself has suggested that the cull should stop. 

Additionally, new regulations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) provide increased measures to help protect seven marine species, including species of manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and the oceanic whitetip shark and porbeagle shark. 

Last month, FoA filed a petition to list the common thresher shark under the Endangered Species Act, and in June, FoA celebrated a landmark victory as the National Marine Fisheries Service listed four populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks and five species of sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act. The decisions came as a response to petitions filed by FoA and WildEarth Guardians in 2011 and 2012.

Providing protections for marine species is a main goal of the Wildlife Law Program, and we will continue to work for the betterment of the lives, living conditions, and legal protections of marine species. 

2) Small steps in rights for horses can add up to massive change (The Dodo)

As FoA battles to halt the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City, some support comes in the form of recent developments in Utah. After the public there witnessed the suffering and eventual death of a 13-year-old horse named Jerry last year, the carriage industry has all but disappeared in Salt Lake City, with the last company recently closing. We hope that New York policymakers will take note of the growing public opinion against this oppressive industry. 

3) Reports warn of future obstacles for North American birds (The New York Times, The Denver Post)

Recent reports released by both the federal government (in conjunction with conservation groups) and the National Audubon Society point to possibly dire futures for many species of North American birds. The government report, The State of the Birds, cites one third of birds as being at risk for future woes. The report has faith, though, in the potential of conservation projects to better the fate of the birds. 

The National Audubon Society reports looks specifically at the effects of climate change on birds. An article from the Denver Post about the report notes that: “Over the next six decades or so, the critical ranges of more than half the 588 North American bird species will either shrink significantly or move into uncharted territory for the animal, according to Langham's analysis.” 

4) Friends of Animals intervenes on the side of prairie dogs in Utah (The Spectrum)

Wildlife Law Program Executive Director, Michael Harris, was interviewed regarding FoA’s recent lawsuit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service for its “low-effect” Habitat Conservation Plan for prairie dogs, arguing that it is anything but. Read the full story, here.


Week of September 8, 2014

1) Justice for sharks (The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

Friends of Animals has been calling for an end to NBC’s shark hunting television show. The show awards money for killing vulnerable shark species, such as the thresher shark. We recently filed a petition to list the common thresher shark under the Endangered Species Act. A central Indiana man created a petition to cancel the show and has already drawn immense support. 

You can join Friends of Animals and sign the petition, here.


2) USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho is under fire from conservation groups (The Center for Biological Diversity): 

Four conservation groups have initiated a lawsuit against the USDA’s Wildlife Services for its colossal killings of wildlife in Idaho. The groups say that the program often operates in a hidden fashion and uses brutal and ineffectual measures to kill wildlife, especially targeting predators and often killing innocent, non-target animals. 


3) Some good and bad news for whale populations (BBC News, The Dodo): 

The California blue whale population has rebounded to reach an estimated 2,200 in the eastern Pacific Ocean, making it the only blue whale population to recover from destructive whaling practices. While these California whales have managed to reach 97% of their previous historic populations, blue whales in Antarctica are only at 1% of their historic populations. Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth and face danger from ship collisions.  

Just up the coast from California, a newborn orca whale was discovered off of the Washington coast. This is a success to for the orca population, which is endangered.  

Unfortunately, whaling is still practiced today, threatening the stability of whale populations and marine ecosystems. Japanese whalers are currently hunting minke whales in the Pacific Ocean. Japan’s dolphin hunt also began in Taiji last week and was met with activists ready to intervene on behalf of the dolphins. 


4) California plastic bag ban likely to become a reality (Mashable):

California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign legislation into law that will create a state-wide ban on plastic bags. Passing the ban will decease waste in the state and help protect marine life. 


Week of August 25, 2014

1) Celebrating the first California Condor to hatch in the Utah wilderness in 35 years (Source: Audubon Magazine): "Bird's Eye View: California Condors Soar Back from the Brink"

"For your average Joe bird, hatching an egg doesn't make the news. But when a pair of California Condors in Zion National Park welcomed a chick to their 1,000-foot-high nest cavity, biologists and reporters alike celebrated a milestone...."Read more.  


2) On stricter animal abuse laws in Massachusetts (Source: The Dodo): "State Ramps Up Punishment For Animal Abusers "

"The penalties for abusing animals in Massachusetts just got a lot tougher. On Tuesday, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that increases sentences for cruelty convictions." Read more


3) Tracking the ivory trade (Source: The Dodo): "From Tusks To Trinkets: Tracing The Illicit Ivory Trade Back To Its Source "

"Today, the ivory trade is at an all-time high since the commercial ivory ban was implemented in 1989. The problem is global in scale, with approximately 229,729 elephants killed and trafficked in the past six years. But where does all of this ivory come from — and who’s buying it?" Read more


4) Trying to find habitat for the world’s rarest bird, the Madagascar pochard (Source: BBC): "Madagascar pochard, world's rarest bird, needs new home"

"The Madagascar pochard, the world's rarest bird, will not be able to thrive without a new wetland home. This is according to a study revealing that 96% of the chicks are dying at two to three weeks old." Read more.