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Service Proposes To Repeal Exemption of Captive-Bred African Antelope Species Under Endangered Species Act

by | Jul 08, 2011

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposed rule to eliminate a regulation that authorized certain otherwise prohibited activities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with U.S. captive-bred live wildlife and sport-hunted trophies of three endangered African antelope species. The proposed change, if finalized, would require authorization under the Service’s ESA implementing regulations at 50 C.F.R. section 17.21 and section 17.22 to carry out activities with these antelope species that would otherwise be prohibited.

In 2005, the Service added three antelope species that exist entirely or largely in captivity outside of their native range in Africa — the scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelle — to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
The species all inhabit the sparse desert regions of Northern Africa. The dama gazelle and addax are considered critically endangered, while free-ranging populations of the scimitar-horned oryx may not exist in the wild. However, these species, particularly the scimitar-horned oryx, breed well in captivity. There are thought to be thousands of the animals in zoos, on game ranches, and in other such facilities in the United States and elsewhere.

Captive breeding in the United States has contributed to the survival of the scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle worldwide by rescuing these species from near extinction and providing the founder stock necessary for reintroduction. However, many game ranches offer hunting of these species on their lands to manage the size of their populations and remove surplus males.

In general, the ESA prohibits the import or export of any listed species, or its parts or products, as well as sale in interstate or foreign commerce, without a permit. However, in an effort to support captive breeding of these critically endangered species, the Service granted a special exemption at the time these species were listed that allowed owners of these animals to continue carrying out breeding and other activities, including hunting for herd management, without issuing an individual permit.
The exemption was challenged in Federal District Court by Friends of Animals and other groups. In 2009, the court remanded the regulations back to the Service, directing the agency to provide opportunities for the public to review and comment when authorizing activities with these listed species.

The exemption was challenged in Federal District Court by Friends of Animals and other groups. In 2009, the court remanded the regulations back to the Service, directing the agency to provide opportunities for the public to review and comment when authorizing activities with these listed species.
The proposed rule delivered to the Federal Register on Friday, July 1, 2011, would remove the current exemption contained in 50 C.F.R. section 17.21(h) in deference to the permitting regulations currently in place under the Endangered Species Act. Following publication in the Federal Register, the proposed rule will be subject to a 30-day comment period during which all interested persons are invited to comment on the proposal. Information received will be reviewed and evaluated relative to the development of a final decision.

Comments may be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov; follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-IA-2010-0056) or through U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn:  FWS-R9-IA-2010-0056; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA  22203. To learn more about the Service’s implementation of the ESA, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

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