At a time when climate change, encroaching development and population increases are stressing animals throughout the world, Congress is considering an ironically named bill called the SAVES Act that would endanger the world’s most critically endangered species, including many animals at risk of trafficking. The bill, H.R. 2603 (Saving America’s Endangered Species Act), seeks to remove non-native U.S. species from the Endangered Species Act, thus stripping elephants, chimpanzees, gorillas, tigers, giant pandas and more than 600 other plants and animals from protection.

While U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, vice chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources who introduced the legislation, maintains that the act would remove regulations that are “outdated, overly burdensome, and in fact works against the very intent of the ESA,” the bill would eliminate permitting requirements of foreign species thus jeopardizing the fight against trophy hunting and trafficking.

The bill allows critically endangered species to be held in captivity for the purpose of benefiting the domestic sport-hunting industry in states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. This industry has repeatedly claimed, with no evidence, that they can help contribute to saving these animals in their native habitats by keeping them alive in the U.S. Yet the animals are at risk of being killed in trophy hunts, used for their meat, or sold on the black market as exotic pets and to roadside zoos.

“In reality, these organizations have never contributed to any legitimate reintroduction program, and they don’t maintain the herds in a way that will be helpful for true conservation purposes,” explains Mike Harris, director of the Friends of Animals Law Program. “Instead, they are keeping and breeding them for their own economic profit. By doing so, they actually hurt conservation because sport-hunting these animals both reduces the stigma associated with their killing, and promotes black market trade.”

FOA opposed a similar attempt to remove protections in a 2014 budget rider that exempted African antelopes from ESA.

“This bill is not needed. It will only hurt these species in the wild and promote an industry whose sole purpose is to kill them,’’ said Harris.” Moreover, true conservation programs have no problem, or difficulty, complying with the permitting requirements of the ESA.”

The bill is one of five being considered by Congress that weaken the ESA, which was first introduced in 1973 and protects more than 1,600 species. Other bills under consideration strip safeguards for gray wolves, allow government agencies to preclude the listing of species as threatened based on economic effects, and make it tougher for citizens to sue on behalf of endangered species.

Contact your Congressional representative and tell them to vote against HR 2603.