The U.S. is allowing trophy hunters to bring home hundreds of leopard trophies. We are suing to stop that

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on October 28, 2020 with 3 Comments

The number of leopards in sub-Saharan Africa has plummeted by 30% in just the last 20 years, putting the future of these unique animals in jeopardy. Yet the U.S. government continues to allow Americans to import nearly 300 leopard trophies a year.

Today, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, along with our coalition partner Center for Biological Diversity and a South Africa-based ecotourism safari operator involved in the conservation of big cats, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allowing these imports. Our lawyers also sent the agency a letter urging it to act on our 2016 petition asking for full protections for African leopards under the Endangered Species Act, which could drastically cut the number of leopards recklessly killed to import as trophies into the United States and would allow the public to weigh in on these important agency decisions.

Leopards in Africa are in dire need of protection. They face multiple threats to their survival, including habitat loss, lack of prey, persecution by people, the illegal skin trade and trophy hunting. American trophy hunters have contributed heavily to this decline, importing more than half of all leopard trophies traded throughout the world.

The lawsuit we filed today focuses on leopards imported from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique—the United States has imported more than 1,000 leopard trophies from these countries alone within a recent five-year period.

We strongly believe that the USFWS has a responsibility to ensure that this outsized contribution to leopard trophy hunting isn’t pushing these animals faster toward extinction. But instead of doing the right thing, the agency is rubber-stamping trophy imports without conducting a full analysis of the threats to the species, and without basic data such as how many leopards even exist in many of these African leopard range states. Without such reliable data, it should not be approving a single trophy import.

These actions, as our lawsuit shows, are also clearly in violation of the USFWS’s own regulations implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty that regulates the trade of listed species.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has already designated leopards as “vulnerable.” Leopards in 18 countries spanning the lower half of the African continent are currently listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. But we need stronger protections if we are to save this species. The USFWS has a legal obligation to act on our 2016 petition to list all leopards as endangered within a year of receiving that petition. But the only thing the agency did soon after we filed our petition is to make an initial determination that an endangered listing may be warranted. It has been silent since. The letter we sent the agency today puts it on notice that we intend to bring a second lawsuit if it does not take action on our petition within 60 days.

Leopards are remarkable creatures, known for their spotted hides and stealthy mannerisms. They are also admired for being among the fastest runners in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, the threats they face today are too immense for them to outrun. We are calling on the USFWS to stop pandering to powerful gun and trophy hunting lobbies and do the right thing to protect these animals. Otherwise, the only place we might see leopards in the future is as a head or a rug in a trophy hunter’s living room.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Greyhound racing is all but dead as Florida prepares for its final races

By on October 27, 2020 with 4 Comments
Greyhound racing is all but dead as Florida prepares for its final races

With a historic law we helped pass that bans greyhound racing in Florida about to take effect at the beginning of 2021, the last three remaining racetracks in the state have announced the dates for their final races in December. It would not be a . . . 

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Congress moves to strengthen fight against wildlife trafficking, trade in wild animals for food

By on October 26, 2020 with 1 Comment
Congress moves to strengthen fight against wildlife trafficking, trade in wild animals for food

The trade in live wild animals and their body parts threatens the survival of so many wildlife species, and it poses serious global security and public health risks. In a one-two punch targeting this international crisis, members of Congress have introduced bills that would bolster . . . 

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The protection of wildlife is not about killing; it’s about cooperation that stops the killing

By on October 23, 2020 with 0 Comments
The protection of wildlife is not about killing; it’s about cooperation that stops the killing

Our agenda for the protection of wildlife is an ambitious one, focusing on the most serious threats to threatened and endangered animals in the United States and around the world. We’ve invested a lot of energy and resources in the fights to stop the trophy . . . 

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170 dog meat trade survivors touch down in the United States; new poll shows a growing majority of South Koreans reject dog meat

By on October 22, 2020 with 2 Comments
170 dog meat trade survivors touch down in the United States; new poll shows a growing majority of South Koreans reject dog meat

It’s a long way from dog meat farmer Il-Hwan Kim’s operation in South Korea to Washington, DC. Yet that’s the amazing journey being taken by 170 dogs rescued by Humane Society International’s Animal Rescue Team. Together with more than two dozen other dogs from previous . . . 

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Human-animal coexistence undermined by poor understanding of animal behavior and needs

By on October 21, 2020 with 0 Comments
Human-animal coexistence undermined by poor understanding of animal behavior and needs

The recent viral video of a Utah runner’s encounter with a mountain lion on a trail has set off a new round of debate about the challenges of human-wildlife coexistence. Unfortunately, as this story broke, some media outlets were quick to sensationalize the incident, falsely . . . 

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Urgent! US Fish and Wildlife Service goes rogue with proposal for baiting and trophy hunting of brown bears, and you can help us stop it

By on October 20, 2020 with 19 Comments
Urgent! US Fish and Wildlife Service goes rogue with proposal for baiting and trophy hunting of brown bears, and you can help us stop it

With a proposal to permit the killing of brown bears over bait in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has “gone rogue.” The USFWS and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior, are way over on the dark . . . 

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Judge issues hefty fine on Chelsea Kennel Club for selling sick animals, new report shows Nebraska Department of Agriculture routinely ignores puppy mill suffering

By on October 20, 2020 with 28 Comments
Judge issues hefty fine on Chelsea Kennel Club for selling sick animals, new report shows Nebraska Department of Agriculture routinely ignores puppy mill suffering

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has imposed a remarkable $3.9 million in fines on the now-closed Chelsea Kennel Club and its former owner, found liable for pushing sick puppies upon an unsuspecting public, and ordered them to set up a restitution fund for the consumers . . . 

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Another right whale on the ropes: entanglement means extinction

By on October 19, 2020 with 2 Comments
Another right whale on the ropes: entanglement means extinction

Our National Marine Fisheries Service, slow to take action, really shouldn’t need a prompt about the fierce urgency of now when it comes to protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Still, a new reminder has come with the tragic sighting last week of . . . 

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Tell Missouri to trash its black bear hunt proposal; it’s based on research funded by Safari Club

By on October 16, 2020 with 20 Comments
Tell Missouri to trash its black bear hunt proposal; it’s based on research funded by Safari Club

Missouri’s proposal to open season on black bears has the trophy hunting industry’s fingerprints all over it. But the state’s residents now have a chance to voice their opposition to it. The Missouri Department of Conservation has just opened formal public comment on this ill-conceived . . . 

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Victory! Federal court rejects challenge to Prop 12

By on October 15, 2020 with 6 Comments
Victory! Federal court rejects challenge to Prop 12

Our legal team has just warded off a challenge to California’s Proposition 12, the world’s strongest farm animal protection law. A 9th Circuit court three-judge panel ruled today in favor of upholding this historic initiative that bans the heinous confinement of hens, mother pigs and . . . 

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, do your job and protect giraffes, or we’ll see you in court

By on October 14, 2020 with 8 Comments
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, do your job and protect giraffes, or we’ll see you in court

It’s been more than three years since we filed a petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act from trophy hunting and other imminent threats to their survival. During this time, the agency has responded once . . . 

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