October 23, 2013
For some vulnerable species, the battle for protection continues
Even when species are listed as endangered, watched over by scientists, and protected by specially written laws, they still need help from advocates such as The HSUS. “We have to be vigilant,” says Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection.
Lead ammunition helped place the California condor on the endangered list. The majestic vultures ate the remains of animals killed by hunters, ingested lead pellets, and died in such numbers they disappeared from the wild. Saved by captive breeding, the species was reintroduced in California beginning in 1992, and the state later banned the use of lead ammunition within the bird’s known territory. But condors still die of lead poisoning. At press time, HSUS-backed legislation that would phase in the use of non-lead ammunition throughout California awaited the governor’s signature or veto. A statewide switch to nontoxic ammunition would benefit birds of prey besides the condor, further bolstering the bald eagle, whose numbers have rebounded since the ban on DDT.
We have to be vigilant.”
- Nicole Paquette
Gray wolves repopulated parts of the United States because the Endangered Species Act protected them from widespread bounty hunting that had decimated their numbers. Now, even though populations remain tenuous, the government has delisted gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes. Some states have already moved to allow recreational hunting and other widespread killing again; half of all wolves in the Northern Rockies were killed last year. In response, The HSUS and other animal advocacy groups have filed lawsuits to reinstate wolves’ protected status under the Endangered Species Act. In Michigan these organizations are working to put a measure to stop wolf hunting on the 2014 ballot.
Grizzly bears are also at risk of losing protection, having multiplied in and around Yellowstone National Park. With a mountain pine beetle infestation killing trees that provide one of the animals’ primary foods—pine nuts—The HSUS is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain their threatened status.
“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is not just to recover species in numbers, but to make sure that their populations are healthy and sustainable over the long term,” says Ralph Henry, HSUS deputy director of animal protection litigation.
Polar bears were listed as threatened in 2008 because the sea ice they use to pursue prey is disappearing. Yet U.S. hunters keep trying to make it legal to import trophies from bears they shoot in Canada. Their latest attempt: two bills (H.R. 1818 and S. 847) that The HSUS is fighting. Earlier this year, a federal court rejected lawsuits brought by hunters to delist polar bears and allow imports of their heads and skins. The decision, a victory for The HSUS, was affirmed in June when an appeals court rejected the hunters’ argument.
Despite opposition, the Endangered Species Act works, says Henry. “Without this law, we wouldn’t have wolves, we wouldn’t have grizzly bears, and we wouldn’t have bald eagles, in the lower 48.”