USFWS considers ESA listing for Egyptian tortoise, long-tailed chinchilla
We have some big news for the small Egyptian tortoise, the second smallest species of tortoise, which is believed to be extinct within Egypt but can still be found in Libya and in parts of the Negev Desert in Israel.
Friends of Animals (FoA) received a positive 90-day finding on its petition to list the Egyptian tortoise under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This means the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found FoA’s petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the ESA listing may be warranted, so it will conduct its own status review. An ESA listing would prohibit the sale, purchase and transport of the species in the United States. FoA also received a positive 90- day finding on its petition to list the long-tailed chinchilla under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
An ESA listing would prohibit people from killing chinchillas in the wild or on fur farms or to sell their pelts. Despite an Appendix I “threatened with extinction” listing by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, there has been consistent illegal trade in protected tortoises, and wild-caught individuals are exported under the guise of being bred in captivity. Urban development, tourist development, agricultural expansion and livestock overgrazing have already destroyed more than 86 percent of the tortoise’s historic range. Hunting chinchillas for their pelts has caused the population in the wild to plummet to near extinction.
There are now more chinchillas held in captivity and killed for their pelts than there are in the wild. The legal commercialization of the animals may actually make matters worse for wild chinchillas. Laundering offers a vehicle to use illegal supplies to satisfy excess demand among legal consumers. Also the availability of legally harvested species may confuse customers by sending a signal this specie is no longer endangered.
Other human activities such as cattle and goat grazing, mining and local firewood collection are destroying the species’ habitat. Chinchilla are also captured to be sold as pets and exploited as research subjects. They have been used as models for the study of hearing because they respond to pure tones and they have the same middle-ear anatomy and nervous system connections as humans
FoA files legal petition to cancel registration of wild horse fertility control pesticide PZP
In May Friends of Animals (FoA) filed a legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting the agency consider new scientific evidence demonstrating the need to cancel the registration of porcine zona pellucida (PZP) for population control of America’s wild horses and burros, which was issued to the Humane Society of the United States in 2012. Information is now available to the EPA regarding the unintended— and previously undisclosed—side effects on both targeted mares and wild horses in general. It not only shows unreasonable adverse effects, but also indicates the use of PZP on wild horses likely violates the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
“When the HSUS obtained ESA registration for PZP, the organization never provided evidence that PZP doesn’t have negative side effects…it just provided information about the efficacy of PZP and actually requested waivers for most of the studies ordinarily required from an applicant seeking pesticide registration—including a toxicity study, ecological effects and environmental fate guideline study,” said Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program.
“The majority of research submitted by HSUS was published by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, a veterinarian who manufactures PZP, and did not consider the biological, social and behavioral effects the drug can have on wild horses.” Recent research has demonstrated repeated applications of PZP can cause physical damage to treated mares; it is not completely reversible; it can increase mortality in foals postPZP effectiveness; and it interferes with herd cohesion, which is critical to the overall health of wild horses. In addition, preventing mares from producing foals can create a genetic bottleneck that may ultimately extinguish the species as a whole.
With the passing of the Wild Horse and Burro Act (WHBA) of 1971, Congress declared that “wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death. FoA is adamant that new studies indicate that PZP use is harassing, and even killing, wild horses in ways not considered as part of the initial registration process. While the WHBA provides for an exception from general mandates to protect wild horses to control their populations, this exception is both narrow (the animal must be deemed “excess”) and can only be applied if the implementing agency first completes certain statutory requirements. “It may be that with regards to the decision to dose a particular mare, the implementing agencies can comply with the WHBA. However, the other horses in the herd that are not dosed with PZP as well as the unborn foals cannot be legally defined as “excessive” and, thus, the risk of harassment or death to these animals posed by PZP violates the WHBA,” said Harris.