Wildlife Gains in 2015: Stepping Up the Battle Against Wildlife Trafficking, Trophy Hunting of Rare Species
The threats that wildlife face are extraordinary, but no group brings the kind of focus and energy to wildlife protection that The HSUS and its affiliates do. In 2015, we witnessed the beginning of the end for elephants in circuses, a globalizing of the campaign against wildlife trafficking, and a worldwide backlash against trophy hunting after the killing of Cecil the lion. We’re pushing for protection of marine life around the world, and in the United States, we are leading the fight to protect wolves and other carnivores from houndsmen, trappers, and trophy hunters. And we’re working to develop and extend alternative frameworks for thinking about and dealing with wildlife conflict. Here are some of our top achievements for wildlife in 2015.
1. Ending the mistreatment and use of elephants in circuses
In March, Ringling Bros. announced a planned phase-out of its traveling elephant acts, acknowledging the changing public opinion that has led cities and counties to adopt ordinances to restrict the use of elephants in circuses.
2. Cracking down on wildlife trafficking and elephant ivory
In July, President Obama announced a proposed rule to significantly curtail the commercial ivory trade in the United States with limited exceptions. In September, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced a shared commitment to ending the global trade in ivory and wildlife trafficking – perhaps one of the biggest developments of the year on animal protection. In November, at the urging of The HSUS and philanthropist Paul Allen, Washington state voters emphatically approved I-1401, the first statewide measure on global wildlife trafficking to save at-risk species from trade in their parts and products. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a ban on the commercial trade in ivory and rhino horn.
3. Federal government lists all chimpanzees as endangered, ending the use of these wild animals in invasive experiments
We achieved an enormous gain for chimpanzees this year with a federal listing of captive chimpanzees as endangered. Soon thereafter, the National Institutes of Health agreed not to ever again use any chimpanzees in research, unwinding a prior pledge to keep 50 chimpanzees in a colony for potential future use as research subjects. The fight for chimpanzees in the wild continues as they face enormous threats from bushmeat killing and habitat destruction and fragmentation.
4. Stopping trophy hunting of threatened and endangered species
The tragic killing of Cecil the lion in July set in motion a global cascade of reforms against trophy hunting. Thus far, 45 airlines have banned trophy imports of the Africa Big Five — African lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo. France banned lion trophy imports. And millions of citizens learned the truth about Safari Club International and the trophy hunting interest lobby’s damaging impact upon the world’s wildlife. We expect to achieve protection for the African lion soon under the Endangered Species Act, which will make it much more difficult for American hunters to import lion body parts as trophies.
5. Protecting native carnivores and blocking inhumane or unsporting wildlife practices
We worked with the California Fish and Game Commission to ban any commercial and recreational trapping of bobcats, sparing more than 1,000 bobcats each year from a terrible fate. We’ve been working to maintain protections for wolves, fighting to preserve two federal court wins in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming and battling federal legislative maneuvers to subvert these court rulings.
In Colorado we stopped a controversial proposal by Colorado Parks and Wildlife that would have killed up to 50 percent of the mountain lions in certain areas, and persuaded the agency to withdraw from consideration a citizen petition that would have allowed trophy hunters to use electronic calls to lure and shoot mountain lions at close range. In Washington, we convinced Gov. Jay Inslee to overturn a decision by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission that would have raised cougar-hunting quotas by up to 100 percent in areas also inhabited by wolves. After our campaigns, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission halted its plans for a mountain lion trophy hunt for 2016, and in South Dakota, the Fish and Parks Commission reduced its quota of cougars for hunting.
6. Investigating roadside menageries
We revealed the shocking results of our undercover investigations at two roadside menageries, Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia and Tiger Safari in Oklahoma. Both breed tiger cubs for public handling opportunities, and we documented the abuse and neglect of the animals. We filed detailed USDA complaints, cruelty complaints, and state wildlife law violation complaints. The USDA opened investigations into both facilities and issued dozens of citations, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries temporarily suspended Natural Bridge Zoo’s exhibitor permit. We are seeking the adoption of a federal policy to ban public contact with dangerous wild animals.
7. Cracking down on the trade in large constricting snakes
At our urging, the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) listed four large constrictor snake species as injurious under the Lacey Act: the reticulated python, the DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda, and the Beni anaconda. This import trade is cruel to the snakes and dangerous to native wildlife (since people release the snakes into American habitats) and to their owners and neighbors. We are working alongside the Department of Justice to defend this rule from challenge by snake breeders.
We helped to pass regulations for West Virginia’s law against keeping wild animals as pets, leaving only five states with no such laws. We supported passage of regulatory reforms in Arizona to ban the private possession of primates as pets, and assisted in passing ordinances in Clark County, Nevada, and Caroline County, Virginia, to ban private possession of most dangerous wild animals as pets. In Kansas, we defeated a bill that would have allowed direct public contact with dangerous wild animals.
8. We gave new life to a California law to ban imports of kangaroo parts
Australia allows the killing of millions of kangaroos, including for their parts used in shoe leather and other fashion items. We blocked a maneuver in California to extend an allowance to continue these imports, which has the potential to end the use of kangaroo parts throughout the nation, given the importance of the California market to these companies.
9. Progress for marine species
The California Coastal Commission ruled that SeaWorld in San Diego could not obtain a permit to expand its captive orca facility unless it agreed to halt breeding or transfer of orcas in or out of the park. A court upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s denial of a permit to the Georgia Aquarium to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales. The HSUS filed an amicus curiae brief on the side of the NMFS. The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) committed to stop its practice of acquiring live dolphins from cruel “drive hunts.” India issued notification of its intent to ban exports of all shark fins, and Texas passed a law prohibiting the sale, trade, purchase, and transportation of shark fins.
10. Advancing humane wildlife management
We helped stop the U.S. Forest Service from sending horses from Arizona’s Salt River Forest to slaughter. The House and Senate Interior appropriations bills for 2016 both contained language regarding protections for wild horses. We helped adopt out 472 burros previously held in holding pens. As part of ongoing deer fertility control projects, we completed our second year of work at The Village of Hastings-on-Hudson to humanely stabilize and reduce the local deer population through immunocontraception.
Indeed, we are working on a hundred fronts to protect wildlife, blending a concern for species with a concern for individual creatures. Wild animals need a safe place to live, and they need protection from cruelty. On all those counts, The HSUS is there.