- October 17 - Defenders of Wildlife, the Species Survival Network, and nearly two dozen other organizations today called for a halt to White House plans to allow the importation of hides, hunting trophies, and live specimens of endangered animals. In official comment on the proposal, Defenders charged that this approach could lead to the extinction of any of more than 500 species around the world.
"This Bush policy is truly Orwellian, encouraging killing endangered animals in order to save them," said Carroll Muffett, director of international programs for Defenders of Wildlife. "Turning these species into commodities will only increase the slaughter and encourage illegal trade and poaching."
The USFWS proposal allows imports of animal parts or live specimens of endangered animals into the United States, so long as the importer says that some portion of the purchase price went into conservation efforts in the country of origin. In theory, this would give an economic incentive to protection of these species, but the proposal contains no provisions that would allow the FWS to verify these claims.
Muffett said the proposal is "shockingly silent on even rudimentary standards" to ensure that any of the money actually went to conservation, and noted that the proposal would invite fraud and even liquidation of endangered animals by developing nations desperate for hard currency.
"Sustainable use" programs like the one proposed by the Bush Administration have proven largely unsuccessful at achieving real conservation, and frequently have the opposite effect. Resumption of a legal ivory trade in southern Africa, for example, appears to have led to increased elephant poaching not only in the exporting states, but elsewhere in Africa and Asia. In Kenya, this resurgence was accompanied by increased slayings of Maasai peoples in encounters with heavily armed poachers.
"Behind every dubious example of 'sustainable use' - endangered crocodile skins from Mexico, rare hunting trophies, elephants for circuses - you'll find a well-heeled industry with an armada of lobbyists," Muffett said. "Once again, the Bush Administration is letting industry write its own rules."