Whether by looking at our logo, or our programs, there’s no mistaking that The HSUS and its affiliated entities are about protecting all animals, and that includes wildlife. We have more than 100 staff who focus on wildlife issues, including helping nearly 20,000 wild animals at our three U.S.-based wildlife care centers – on Cape Cod, in south Florida, and in San Diego County – and also the five rescue centers we partner with in Central America, where animals rescued from illegal trafficking and poaching are taken to be cared for, rehabilitated, and, when possible, released into the wild.
But we’d be failing in our mission if we just helped to heal and rehabilitate injured wildlife. One of our primary goals is to prevent cruelty, and that only happens by focusing on public and corporate policy-making and by finding practical and innovative ways to live peacefully with wildlife and to conduct our business.
Here’s a run-down of our top 10 list of accomplishments in the wildlife arena for 2012.
This past September, California became the 15th
state to ban the cruel practice of hound hunting.
- We led the effort to enact a ban on the use of dogs in hunting bobcats and bears in California, which had been one of the biggest bear hunting states in the country.
- We assisted federal wildlife police with Operation Cyberwild, an investigation that led to twelve people being charged with federal and state crimes in California and Nevada for illegal online trafficking of wildlife and wildlife parts. As part of our broader anti-poaching efforts, we donated a robotic elk decoy to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to assist officers in catching poachers and donated funds to the California Department of Fish and Game for poaching K-9 shelter dog units.
- It was an important year in our efforts to restrict private ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a ban on the trade of four invasive snake species (including the Burmese python) to protect animal welfare, public safety, and the environment. Ohio passed a law cracking down on the private possession of dangerous wild animals, including big cats, wolves, bears, most primate species and other exotics, in wake of the Zanesville exotic animal tragedy, and a federal court upheld the law. Our undercover investigation into GW Exotics, the biggest exotic animal park in the United States, notorious for breeding big cats and peddling photo opportunities with its cubs, resulted in nationwide media exposure and the filing of state and federal legal complaints.
- Illinois banned the shark fin trade, and several city shark fin bans came about in Canada. At our urging, the European Union tightened its law against finning, and we made gains in Central America, too. Amazon Japan included whale and dolphin products on its list of prohibited items, while on its U.S. site, Amazon.com added products containing shark, whale or dolphin to its list of prohibited items.
- On the fur-free front, denim retailer True Religion Brand Jeans recommitted to be fur-free after The HSUS supporters urged the company to reverse its decision to sell animal fur. At our urging, Saks Fifth Avenue pledged to stop accepting garments with raccoon dog fur from China. An HSUS investigation revealed illegal sale of domestic dog fur, prompting U.S. Customs officials to pull the items. Global online retailer Yoox.com went fur-free in the US after The HSUS filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission about its selling real animal fur as fake fur.
- This was a major year in gaining acceptance of immunocontraception as a humane wildlife management tool. The Environmental Protection Agency, responding to requests from The HSUS, provided official registration of the first contraceptive vaccine for horses – which should be more widely used in managing wild horses and burros in the West, as an alternative to inhumane and costly and unsustainable round-ups and removals. We are working with partners to contracept elephants at 14 reserves in South Africa, including Tembe Elephant Park. HSI will receive a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct immunocontraception of all elephant populations in Kwa Zulu Natal province, South Africa, for three years. We have implemented a successful white-tailed deer management program on Fripp Island, South Carolina.
- We are working to block, in Congress, the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies into the United States, and we gained U.S. and Russian support for a proposal to list polar bears on CITES Appendix I and to severely restrict trade in trophies and other parts from Canada.
- The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the insular stock of Hawaii false killer whales as endangered under the ESA and adopted our take reduction plan to reduce fishery-related mortality of this species, and we extended our work on behalf of North Atlantic right whales. We pressured South Korea to drop its plans for commercial whaling, pressed the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests to conclude that a dolphinarium in the state of Maharashta, would not comply with the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and celebrated the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s adoption of a proposal by Australia to prohibit intentional setting of nets on cetaceans and a proposal by the US to prohibit the targeting, retention, transshipment and landing (but not sale – China omitted sale) of oceanic whitetip sharks.
- While hunters killed 70,000 seals in Atlantic Canada, that was 330,000 below the quota set by the government. We’ve closed down markets throughout the world for seal skins, and sealers got money for some pelts only because the Newfoundland provincial government boat them. The coats are being stored in warehouses, since no one wants to buy them anywhere in the world.
- After The HSUS conducted an undercover investigation at a roadside zoo in Collins, Miss., law enforcement seized 11 exotic animals. In Ohio, we helped relocate more than 100 birds from a bird facility where there was widespread suffering and neglect. In other parts of the country, we worked to relocate tortoises and prairie dogs from dangerous areas to safe ones. Through our Humane Wildlife Services, Prairie Dog Coalition & Wildlife Response teams, we helped or rescued about 3000 animals.
There are a substantial number of organizations that focus on species protection, habitat destruction, pollution, or climate change. At The HSUS, we help with those fights, but we never forget that cruelty to individual wild animals is a moral wrong. You can count on us to tackle the problems on many fields of battle.