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Friends of Animals recently celebrated a victory for scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelles who are routinely bred and killed on hunting ranches here in the United States. These animals, on the brink of extinction in their native homelands in northern Africa, have been the targets of paying trophy hunters seeking a thrill-kill.
On 5 Jan. 2012, a new rule in the U.S. Federal Register was published, reflecting two decades of work by Friends of Animals to protect these antelope. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will now protect all members of these three species under the Endangered Species Act—including those bred on U.S. soil and sold for sport-hunting.
60 Minutes will recount the story of how these animals ended up on the verge of extinction, and how Friends of Animals, through its project in Senegal, is protecting these animals so they can recover their footing and freedom in their own habitat.
“We’re grateful that 60 Minutes is telling this landmark story,” says Friends of Animals’ president Priscilla Feral, who worked with 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan in the late spring of 2011—recounting Friends of Animals’ work on this project that began in 1999 with a trip to Senegal.
Friends of Animals, with the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, sued the federal government to list the these antelopes as “endangered” under U.S. law. In September 2005, the FWS did list the three species as “endangered,” noting that desertification, human encroachment, ranching, regional military activity, and hunting imperil these antelopes.
Yet on the same date, the FWS published an exception to the rule removing take and transport prohibitions from the very animals that the United States has the strongest power to protect—those kept by U.S. enterprises. The blanket exemption authorized killing, commercial transport, and interstate or foreign commerce—hence, allowing continued exploitation of these animals on hunting ranches.
A court case brought by Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians in 2009 challenged the loophole and secured a court order finding that the exemption violated Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. The judge call the blanket exemption “anathema” to the ESA, and in June 2009 remanded the rule to the FWS for the appropriate change.
Friends of Animals currently supports an increasing population of 175 oryxes (and dozens of dama gazelles) in northern Senegal within two, semi-desert reserves encompassing thousands of acres—and is committed to seeing these numbers grow.
“Even though this project is decades long, we’re just beginning,” says Feral. “We’re committed to ensuring these animals thrive in freedom once again.”