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Endangered African antelope win protection from American hunters

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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scimitar horned oryxUntil last week, U.S. trophy hunters had the legal right to hunt three species of endangered African game at American ranches, thanks to a “blanket exemption” to the Endangered Species Act issued during the Bush administration.

That loophole has now been closed, following a federal judge’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by the organization Friends of Animals, based on Darien, Conn.

The ruling protects U.S.-bred scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), addax (Addax nasomaculatus), and dama gazelles (Nanger dama), all of which are critically endangered in their African homelands, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The three species were listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2005, which should have granted them a greater level of protection, but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a rule creating an exception for captive-bred antelope, claiming "captive breeding in the United States has contributed significantly to the conservation of these species."

Friends of Animals first sued to protect the three species in 2005. "Why would the government allow the hunting of these antelope any more than they’d allow the hunting of a chimpanzee?" said Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral in a statement.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., attacked this exception, writing, "Blanket exemptions under regulations are anathema to [the intentions of the Endangered Species Act] because they allow the FWS to permit a great number of exemptions at once without providing the detailed information to the public that would be required in an individualized analysis."

Until now, American sport hunters could pay $3,500 to hunt and kill a scimitar-horned oryx—and even more for an addax or dama gazelle—and keep the carcasses as trophies. International travel to accomplish the same task has long been banned by the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Image: Scimitar-Horned Oryx at the Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio, Texas, via Wikipedia

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  1. 1. Rogeregon 4:43 pm 06/29/2009

    The only reason these populations exist on these ranches is for hunters. If they aren’t allowed to hunt them, then they will no longer raise them.

    Why don’t the Friends of Animals buy some land and start raising some themselves? But then the ultimate goal of these extremists is to take away our right to eat meat. And as most of these freaks are ultra-liberals, you can bet that most, if not all, support abortion. They see the lives of even a snail or fish as more important than an unborn human baby. It just makes me sick how they drip with hypocrisy!

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  2. 2. jacksond 5:23 pm 06/29/2009

    Since we can’t hunt and eat them anymore, the ranch I work on will now be forced to stop its breeding program and exterminate the remaining stock as feral pests. After all, it would be illegal to release potentially invasive exotic species into the wild. Animal rights extremists like these idiots will not stop until they’ve either made every known animal extinct or forced the human race into extinction, and I’m not sure which they’re likely to see first.

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  3. 3. Davidxx 3:28 pm 07/20/2009

    I fully agree with the two previous comments. I’ve talked with several ranchers here in Texas and without the financial income from very selective hunting, they will NOT be keeping these large animals on their ranches. They compete directly with native hoofstock like whitetail deer and being so large require much more rigorous (expensive) fencing. The FoA group did these animals no favor when they won their political agenda. The scimitar oryx just lost some of their best refuges from extinction thanks to the "Friends" of Animals!!!

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  4. 4. John 68 10:33 pm 12/16/2009

    It is truly sad how ,Friends of Animals is so ignorant about this issue. The Oryx only exist on these ranches because of hunters.

    The Oryx are already hitting rock bottom prices for hunters, so ranchers can get rid of them. Hundreds of them have already been killed.

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  5. 5. lonelyland 4:55 pm 05/5/2010

    Friends of Animals must believe these things are running around in the wild to demand such a thoughtless course of action. TPWD is THE leader in knowledge sharing on wildlife conservation efforts yet they completely ignored their advice. Private ownership for hunting purposes is what brought them back from the brink of extinction in the first place… I can’t wait for a 10-year population count to slap some sense into our overly PC nation.

    I know our ranch, for one, won’t be supplementing feed to our Oryx anymore. Without a market for these animals there is no need to pay out of pocket to keep them around… say goodbye to another species. It’s sad to be a hunter & know that I’ll miss the Oryx more than any member of "friends" of animals.

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