The December 19th ruling by a federal judge in favor of wolf protection in the Great Lakes capped a remarkable set of gains for wildlife at home and abroad. We are not afraid to take on the tough fights and to confront both callous disregard and calculated cruelty to wildlife. In the latest in a series of look-back blogs on the events and campaigns in 2014, here’s my run-down of our extraordinarily diverse and high-impact wildlife work for the year.
Delivering results and protections for wolves
A federal court ruling in December rewarded our litigation strategy by restoring federal endangered or threatened designations for wolves in the Great Lakes and blocking trophy hunting and trapping indefinitely. Thanks to a September ruling in another lawsuit to which we were party, wolves are also off the hunting and trapping menu in Wyoming, and back on the federal Endangered Species list. In Michigan, we successfully halted the trophy hunting of wolves for the 2014 season through victories on Proposals 1 and 2, and stopped the Michigan legislature’s attempts to designate wolves as a game species and hand off decision-making on hunting and trapping seasons to a group of unelected political appointees at the Natural Resources Commission.
The World Trade Organization’s appellate body upheld the European Union’s right to ban trade in commercial seal products. The HSUS and HSI submitted amicus briefs in the case, which marks the first time the WTO has recognized animal welfare as a legitimate basis for domestic legislation banning the import of inhumane products.
Securing bans on ivory and rhino horn
We drove ivory, rhino horn, and shark fin bans across the nation and pressed these issues in the global arena, including a campaign in Vietnam that dropped rhino horn consumption by 38 percent. We championed the enactment of laws in New Jersey and New York to stop the import or sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn – the first such laws in the United States. We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose a new federal effort to crack down on the ivory trade. We worked with federal lawmakers to allow increased collaboration among enforcement agencies on illicit trafficking activities, and to secure tens of millions of dollars in funding to curb the poaching of elephants and rhinos and trafficking in their parts.
Protecting sharks from overfishing and finning
The HSUS won its lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s denial of an HSUS petition to list porbeagle sharks, whose populations have declined by more than 90 percent over the last few decades, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
We helped enact a law in Massachusetts banning the shark fin trade, as we’ve now done in nine states, and a federal court granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging California’s recently-enacted ban on the sale of shark fin products
Curbing Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean
The International Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling that Japan’s whaling activities violate the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling’s moratorium on commercial hunting. Attorneys for Humane Society International helped devise the legal theory that Australia used for its argument, that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling programs are disguised commercial whaling, and HSI-Australia worked to keep the Australian government onside with the lawsuit and the strategy behind it, despite a change in government.
Getting the fur out
This year, we saw the national spotlight focused on big retailers passing off real fur as faux—a problem that The HSUS has worked to expose for years. The Today Show in December aired an investigative segment highlighting this issue and teaching people how not to be duped during the holidays. An ordinance banning the sale of fur apparel within West Hollywood city limits was upheld – The HSUS had filed an amicus brief in support of the city. We added 13 new companies to our list of companies and brands that have announced that they don’t sell animal fur or are phasing in a fur-free policy.
Protecting lions and ending or blocking inhumane and unsporting wildlife practices
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted a legal petition by The HSUS and HSI to list African lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Once finalized, this rule would severely limit imports of lion trophies, and require the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action to protect lions from extinction.
We helped Virginia pass a law that will phase out existing fox pens, and prohibit any new pens from opening. We stopped the expansion of a spring bear hunt in southeast Oregon. In Indiana, we killed a bill that would have allowed captive hunts for cervids and in Missouri we defeated a veto override that would have reclassified captive cervids as livestock, enabling captive hunting operations.
Halting the use of deadly poisons
After pressure from The HSUS, Reckitt Benckiser, maker of d-Con brand mouse and rat poisons, announced that it would stop fighting the Environmental Protection Agency on the cancellation of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGAR), which kill wildlife, and will stop making non-compliant products by the end of 2014.
Helping captive wildlife
We helped pass a law in West Virginia to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals, leaving just five states – Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin – without laws on the keeping of exotic animals as pets. And we successfully defended Ohio’s landmark prohibition on possession of dangerous wild animals in a federal appeals court. Rhode Island passed a resolution urging circuses not to use bullhooks on elephants, as did the City of Oakland, California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised, at our urging, to restrict the trade in four additional species of large, constricting snakes.
Advancing humane wildlife management
We launched a five-year research project at The Village of Hastings-on-Hudson in New York to humanely stabilize and substantially reduce the local deer population via the immunocontraception vaccine Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP). We supported the first deer surgical sterilization project ever approved by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. As a result of our efforts, Austin, Texas and Riverside, Illinois have created humane coyote management policies for solving conflicts among people, pets and coyotes. These policies emphasize coexistence and tolerance for coyotes, rather than cruel and ineffective trapping and killing programs.
Expanding protection for right whales and dolphins
The HSUS reached a settlement agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service to expand critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales. In 2009, we petitioned the agency to significantly expand habitat protections to include all of the whales’ nursery and breeding and feeding grounds. The HSUS also won a lawsuit challenging approval of the Navy’s “low-frequency active” sonar training program in the Pacific Ocean, with respect to the harm done to bottlenose dolphins. Scientific evidence has documented that this sonar testing physically harms marine animals, disrupts their communications, and leads to coastal strandings.
In addition to these policy and courtroom gains, the HSUS wildlife team provided hands-on rescue/transport/rehabilitation to more than 4,700 wild animals in 2014. This includes over 300 prairie dogs, more than 650 gopher tortoises, 67 desert tortoises; 260 burros, countless deer, coyotes, ducks, snakes, and orphaned baby wildlife. Humane Wildlife Services rescued over 2,400 animals and launched a regional service program at the South Florida Wildlife Center. In total, The HSUS assisted more than 400 communities nationwide to coexist with wild neighbors, including coyotes, geese, beavers, and deer.