For Immediate Release
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.”