Archive for Humane Society

Endangering endangered species – New USFWS rules changed may endanger several species!

Posted in Political/Social Commentary with tags , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by The Center Shot

On July 6, 2011 the US Fish & Wildlife Service, under pressure from environmentalists and animal rights activists, proposed eliminating a rule exemption that may well endanger 3 species of animal that are endangered in their natural habitat.

The scimitar horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle are all antelope species that are native to the deserts of North Africa. Native populations of addax and the dama gazelle have been in severe decline and are seriously endangered, as a result of regional conflict, uncontrolled killing in famine-stricken regions of Africa and loss of natural habitat. The scimitar horned oryx is believed to be extinct in North Africa because none have been sighted since the 1980’s. The only place in the world where these species are thriving in large numbers is here in the US, on private game ranches – mostly in Texas.

Private exotic game ranches, with the assistance of groups like the Exotic Wildlife Association, have created breeding programs that have caused these three species (along with other exotic animal species) to grow and flourish on these privately owned, privately operated and privately funded properties. None of these ranches have received financial assistance from the government or from well-known groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or the Sierra Club! In fact, while groups like the WWF have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from well-meaning individuals to “save” endangered species, the scimitar horned oryx has likely gone extinct (in its natural habitat) and the addax and dama gazelle have continued to decline. If it had not been for the efforts of these exotic ranchers, there would not be a healthy population of these animals that can, hopefully, be used to re-introduce these beautiful animals to their native environment – once conditions in Africa improve to the point where this makes sense. In fact, the Exotic Wildlife Association has, “established a partnership with the renowned Sahara Conservation Fund and the two groups are working to reintroduce the species back into their native countries.” Unfortunately, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS),  the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is considering removing the very exemption that has permitted these private exotic ranches to be so successful!The Addax is a desert antelope species from North Africa that is endangered in its native habitat; and survives on US exotic game ranches in significant numbers. These efforts have been privately funded by ranchers and hunters and have been FAR more successful than the efforts of large so-called animal rights groups and conservation organizations like the WWF and the Sierra Club!

In 2005 the USFWS exempted these species, that are listed as “endangered species,” from some of the regulations normally associated with endangered species – so that private ranches could  breed, sell, buy, transport and harvest these animals in the US without special permitting.  As a result, US populations of these animals have exploded and have helped to fuel a $1.3 billion exotic animal industry and created thousands of rural jobs. It has been the most prolific expansion of endangered species populations ever and it’s all been done by private individuals, as a result of deregulation. Prior to the 2005 exemption, very few ranchers were able and willing to raise these animals on their properties because of the difficulties and complexities of the old regulations, the permitting process and the restrictions that had existed. The removal of these obstacles, in 2005, provided these ranchers with a free market financial incentive and made it easy for them to justify introducing these animals to their properties and to instituting breeding programs.

When the exemption was put in place, ranchers were suddenly able to freely and easily buy these animals from the limited number of breeders that existed (at the time) and release them on to their properties, to reproduce. Once a sustainable population was established, the property owners were able to offer hunters the opportunity to hunt some of their mature animals which did two things: First, it allowed the property owners to control the population and prevent it from getting larger than the land could sustain and to prevent the population from interfering with the native species (i.e. deer) on their land.  Secondly, the money they charged to hunt these animals offset the cost of feeding these animals and provided an income stream that enhanced property owners to choose raising these animals over cattle, goats and other livestock. The opportunity to hunt these animals and the willingness of hunters to pay large sums of money fueled a population explosion that simply could not have been done by groups like the WWF or by the federal government.

If you ever doubted that hunters are truly conservationists dedicated to the continuation of all game animal species, and that hunting plays a vital role in creating and managing a healthy population of wild game, this should dispel that doubt! In fact, had it not been for hunters, the numbers of oryx, addax and dama gazelle (not to mention numerous other exotic species that are thriving on US ranches) would be far less than they are today.The Dama gazelle is a desert antelope species from North Africa that is endangered in its native habitat; and survives on US exotic game ranches in significant numbers. These efforts have been privately funded by ranchers and hunters and have been FAR more successful than the efforts of large so-called animal rights groups and conservation organizations like the WWF and the Sierra Club!

If the exemption is removed, these ranchers would have to apply for permission to buy, sell, trade, move or kill each and every oryx, addax or gama gazelle on their property. This presents a number of problems. If a landowner has to apply to the government for permission every time they need to do something with one of their animals, the process becomes so tedious, complicated and expensive that many of these landowners will simply opt to raise other, less complicated species or return the land to livestock which is, then, simpler and cheaper. Also, since the winds and the mood of the federal government are constantly shifting (especially under pressure from special interest groups like the WWF, Sierra Club and HSUS), they can’t be guaranteed that they will even be permitted to do what the animals need. Imagine what would happen if a landowner could not get permission to control the numbers of these animals on their property – after a few years of unchecked breeding, they would overpopulate and become unhealthy and they would begin overwhelming the food supply on the property which has been known to cause destruction to native species, like whitetail deer. We are already seeing this on a massive scale with the exotic Axis deer from Asia. This large deer species has become so prolific in Texas, that they are causing whitetail deer populations to decline in areas where axis numbers are exploding. The whitetail deer simply can’t compete with the axis deer for resources. The typical oryx weighs 3 times a typical whitetail deer. In addition, the complexities of the permitting system the USFWS is contemplating returning to will, even if ranchers utilize it, will increase the price of hunting these animals to a level that most hunters can not afford; which will decrease demand and, thus, eliminate the very incentive that landowners had to stock and breed this endangered species.

The very threat of having to go back to the permitting system has already caused many landowners, that have these species on their properties, to begin drastically reducing their populations.  Since the July 6, 2011 announcement by the USFWS many ranchers have been offering hunters the opportunity to hunt them at drastically reduced prices to reduce their herds; and many have said that, should the old system be re-instituted, they will simply kill every one of these animals on their property, rather than take a chance with the permitting system. This would be devastating to the population of oryx, addax and gama gazelle that currently exist. Who can blame them, though? The same system that the USFWS is threatening to re-impose on these animals currently exists for barasingha deer and is so complicated, difficult and fickle that most exotic ranch don’t stock them. As a result, the population of barasingha has not proliferated as successfully as the oryx, addax and gama gazelle which has been under an exemption. The landowners and ranchers that have been breeding these animals a working people that utilize the land to feed their families and their philanthropy has limits – if it becomes too difficult and expensive to raise these animals they will be forced to switch back to other livestock that is simpler and and more economic. Then, who will perpetuate the species?  The US government, animal rights groups and conservation groups have done NOTHING to increase the numbers of these animals. They will simply decry the loss of the species and blame mankind when they will have been the final straw that eliminated the species’.

The USFWS has tried this before (prior to the 2005 exemption) and, when the permitting system was in place, the numbers of these animals and the numbers of property owners raising them were far less than they have been since the exemption was put into place. So, why reinstitute a system that was NOT as successful as the one that has been operating for the past 6 years? The answer is, pressure from so-called animal rights and conservation groups. These groups are very open in their opposition to hunting and are dedicated to trying to eliminate hunting as a sport. What’s so funny is that they seem to be more interested in opposing hunting than supporting the very animals they are supposedly dedicated to saving! These groups are so blinded by their opposition to hunting that they are unable to to see that this move, in particular, will be devastating to the numbers of oryx, addax and gama gazelle that exist in the US. They should be supporting the status quo and the incredible growth in these animal populations that have resulted from it. Instead, they keep fund raising from good-meaning people who care about animals and using their money to fund a war on hunting instead of actually looking at the situation and supporting the methods that have produced the most success.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service knows better and yet they are bowing to political pressure rather than doing what is best for the animals at issue. This is inexcusable. Unfortunately the time for public comment has passed but pressure can still be exerted on them by congress. If you are interested in supporting the continuation of the scimitar horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle, you can contact your representatives in congress and ask them to pressure the USFWS to maintain the current exemption; and even to expand that exemption to include other endangered species’ like the barasingha deer. If you are a supporter of groups like the Humane Society of the US, the WWF and the Sierra Club, COMPLAIN! Ask them to stop this craziness and to urge the USFWS to maintain and expand the current exemptions!

If the current rule exemption that applies to the oryx, addax and gama gazelle are removed, the blood of these species’ and their loss for future generations will fall squarely on the heads of the USFWS and HSUS, WWF, Sierra Club and other anti-hunting groups!