The HSUS is known as an anti-cruelty organization, and many assume that our primary concern is domesticated species. But we also work hard to protect wild animals from a variety of threats, and our work on that front is wide-ranging.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act – one of a raft of visionary animal protection and conservation laws passed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that collectively signified a new approach and commitment to nature and to wild animals. Today we celebrate Endangered Species Day, a reminder that we humans have all the power in our relationship with wildlife and that we must take intentional actions to protect species from a variety of human-caused threats. The ecologist Aldo Leopold explained that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.
Here are some of the ways that we fight for rare species:
- The HSUS’ Wildlife Land Trust protects thousands of acres of habitat for endangered and imperiled wildlife. We now protect lands in 38 states for both abundant and endangered wildlife. Ultimately, preservation of habitat is the foundation of all efforts aimed at saving wildlife.
- In the last decade, lawsuits filed by The HSUS have successfully prevented efforts to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves on seven different occasions. But recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes from the list of federally protected species, allowing states to assume control over management. State fish and wildlife agencies, pushed by the hunting and ranching lobbies, almost immediately decided to open up hunting and trapping seasons, with Montana now seeking to have a wolf season that lasts for more than half the year. We are back in court again fighting to restore federal protections for wolves. In the broadest sense, we are fighting for the protection of predators, since these apex species play such critical roles in balancing ecosystems.
- We petitioned the Department of Interior to list the African lion under the Endangered Species Act, saving lions from American trophy hunters who kill the cats and bring them home for bragging rights.
- Earlier this year, we successfully defended the Endangered Species Act listing of polar bears in court, and are working to prevent Congress from weakening the Endangered Species Act by allowing trophy hunters to import parts of threatened polar bears. More broadly, we are working with the United States and Russia to promote policies to end the international trade of polar bear hides and parts.
- Not long ago, there were only a few dozen surviving California condors. Today there are a few hundred, and still dangerously scarce. One of the major threats to the condor is lead poisoning from ammunition left behind by hunters. We are sponsoring California AB 711 to require non-lead ammunition for hunting, and that bill passed the California Assembly just yesterday. We are also working to ban other deadly toxins, including the use of Compound 1080, used by the USDA in its predator control programs.
- We are lobbying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to block imports of five species of large constricting snakes. These species have been identified as an invasive species risk. Already, in the Everglades, Burmese pythons have wiped out large numbers of mammals and they threaten the prey base for the highly endangered Florida panther. The pythons are a direct threat to other endangered species as well.
- We work across the country to give full ESA protections to captive animals where their wild counterparts are listed. Just this year we helped pass a ban on the keeping of chimpanzees and other primates as pets in Arkansas, and work to end the private possession of tigers, chimpanzees, wolves, and other dangerous wild animals. We also work to end the killing of endangered antelope who are shot for trophies at captive hunting facilities right here in the U.S.
- Only a few hundred right whales swim off of our coasts, and The HSUS leads the fight to stop ship strikes, fatal entanglement and protect habitat for these sea monarchs.
- Our unparalleled anti-poaching campaign provides several hundred thousand dollars in rewards for tips on poaching cases, including for ESA-listed Mexican gray wolves, whooping cranes, Canada lynx and Steller sea lions, and allows us to partner with federal law enforcement on wildlife trafficking investigations.