Trophy hunters set sights on CITES

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1997:

Atlantic Canadian offshore seal hunt reopened
and up to speed last year, and Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society founder Paul Watson in
a Dutch jail, possibly en route to stand trial in
Norway for sinking whaling ships, it’s two
down and four to go for the wise-use wiseguys
in a concerted drive to reverse the influence of
animal rights activism on wildlife use and
Ahead: a push to reopen international
trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn at
the June triennial conference of the
Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species, to be held in confirmed
wise-use wiseguy habitat at Harare,
Zimbabwe; an effort to end the International
Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial
whaling, easier for Japan and
Norway to do in October if they succeed at
Harare in downlisting minke whales from
CITES Appendix I to Appendix II; repealing
the U.S. “dolphin-safe” tuna import standard,
with the so-called “dolphin death bill” moving
quickly through the House of Representatives;
and gutting the Endangered Species Act.

Amid the anti-wildlife political
maneuvering, the Watson arrest came as a
pointed reminder that both popular directaction
victories and political gains can be
quickly reversed if mass movements lose
momentum––as they have, bogged down for
much of the 1990s in efforts to “free” this or
that animal from captivity in a zoo or aquarium
to live instead in sanctuary captivity.
As Gandhi warned when imprisoned,
and as Watson remembered in a telephone
call to ANIMAL PEOPLE during a
delay while changing planes on his way to
Europe, a cause focused on symbolic individuals
is easily bought off with concessions to
those individuals, even as the cause itself is
lost. Watson recalled how Gandhi asked
Indians to strike not for his freedom, but to
free themselves from British rule.
Bill Clark, CITES advisor to
Friends of Animals, calls the CITES triennial
“the most challenging in the 24-year history of
the treaty. To start with,” Clark warns, “the
venue puts animal protection interests at a
very distinct disadvantage. Zimbabe is clearly
hostile to animal protection, and this attitude

is supported by very generous support from
the government of Japan.”
Natal Parks Board chief George
Hughes told media after an April 16 meeting
of the Wildlife Utilisation Forum of South
Africa that there is no governmental opposition
within South Africa to the proposal formally
introduced to the CITES agenda by
Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana to
resume the elephant ivory traffic––purportedly,
for now, through a single big sale of
stockpiled ivory to Japan, pending a review
of the conservation impact two years later.
Opposition to the proposal, Hughes claimed,
comes exclusively from animal rights groups.
Other African nations, trying to
save elephants, take a different view, signaled
March 8 when Ivory Coast banned ivory
trafficking––though ivory remained readily
available at outdoor markets and jewelry
An internal CITES review of the
proposal leaked to media earlier in April
agreed that the proposed deal probably
wouldn’t harm elephant conservation within
the proposing nations. But the authors added
that they were “unable to predict what its psychological
effect on poachers and illegal
traders in ivory will be.”
They continued that although the
Zimbabwean wildlife department, holding an
estimated $32 million worth of ivory, “is
clearly in need of every source of additional
revenue available, including the sale of ivory,
its lack of management capability raises
doubts as to whether the money raised will be
used effectively.” The report noted that after
the 1989 ivory trade ban was imposed,
“major illegal ivory dealing was allowed to
proceed unchecked for a period of at least a
David Barritt, African director for
the International Fund for Animal Welfare,
reminded media that the mere rumor last year
of an end to the ivory trade ban brought the
massacre of more than 280 elephants in the
Congo. “Zimbabwe too has recently arrested
ivory poachers and traders who have resumed
their activities in anticipation of the lifting of
the ban,” Barritt said.
As recently as December 1996,
Philippine customs inspectors intercepted a
major ivory shipment from South Africa,
routed through Malaysia. Friends of Animals
identified possible Zimbabwean collusion.
Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania,
Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, and South
Africa in March announced the formation of a
new multinational wildlife law enforcement
agency, after nearly four years of negotiation,
but the ivory trade ban could be lifted and
wholesale poaching break loose much sooner
than the agency could be expected to be effectively
organized against the threat.
FoA is the major conduit of antipoaching
aid to the impoverished western
African nations which are also attempting to
save their elephants––of whom most have
only remnant populations. On February 28,
FoA thanked the Republic of China on
Taiwan for $70,000 with which to buy a second
“Flying Tiger” patrol plane for use in
Ghana. The first of the specially designed
planes has been on duty since mid-1996.
They take their name from the Flying Tiger
squadron of American volunteers sponsored
by the Republic of China prior to U.S. entry
into World War II.
The U.S.-funded CAMPFIRE program
on April 21 released a report alleging
that 60,000 wild elephants threaten the lives
and livelihoods of five million of the 11 million
human residents of Zimbabwe. But if
Zimbabwe actually has 60,000 elephants, that
would represent a 20% decline from the
75,000 it claimed to have in 1991, when it
first lobbied to repeal the ivory trade ban.
That figure was widely doubted because
Zimbabwe claimed only 43,000 elephants in
1987, and many experts think that figure was
about double the actual number. At that, getting
from 43,000 to 60,000 in 10 years would
require the herd to have reproduced faster than
any other group of elephants on record.
South Africa, as in 1994, has introduced
a proposal to lift the ban on selling
southern white rhino horn. South Africa, the
only nation with legal rhino hunting, currently
allows about 50 rhinos a year to be shot on

managed game reserves. An obvious problem
is the difficulty of distinguishing South
African rhino horn, in processed form, from
horn of any other source. The northern white
rhino population is reportedly down to 31 individuals,
residing in war-ravaged Garamba
National Park, in northern Zaire. At least five
northern white rhinos were poached last year.
CITES Appendix I lists 700 species
which are allegedly close to extinction due to
commerce. These may be traded only for scientific
and conservation purposes. Appendix
II lists species which might become imperiled
if trade is not strictly controlled.
Among species the U.S. has proposed
for addition to Appendix I this year are
all seven species of sawfish shark, jeopardized
by the use of their saws by the curio industry,
and the Mexican green-cheeked and yellowheaded
parrots, at risk from captures for the
pet trade. Mexico is cosponsoring the parrot
listing proposals.
The U.S. has renewed a proposal,
previously rejected at least twice, to add
bigleaf mahogany to Appendix II, cosponsored
by Bolivia, which is the second largest
exporter of bigleaf mahogany after Brazil; is
cosponsoring a German proposal to add all
currently unlisted sturgeon species to
Appendix II, to help protect Russian sturgeon
species from caviar poaching; and has also
proposed Appendix II listings for the woodland
herb goldenseal, timber rattlesnakes,
alligator snapping turtles, and all 12 species of
map turtle. As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to
press, however, pressure from the pet trade
had reportedly caused the U.S. to amend the
map turtle proposal to exclude some of the
more common of the 12 map turtles, which
were on the list as lookalikes for those
believed to be in potential danger.
The Netherlands is also seeking
numerous Appendix II listings: nine for birds,
four for frogs. Most are rainforest species.
Finland, Bulgaria, and Jordan propose to list
all Eurasian brown bears on Appendix I, and
Thailand wants to add wild water buffalo and
bantengs to Appendix I.
“In addition to the 75 species-specific
proposals,” Clark adds, “there is a full
agenda of management and administration
proposals,” including “a proposal that only
scientifically justified quotas be accepted” for
Appendix II traffic, instead of accepting
nations’ unilaterally set trade quotas on faith;
“a proposal to tighten up the loopholes which
are used by circuses and other traveling activities,”
sometimes as cover “for laundering and
illegally transporting protected wild animals;
a proposal to expand CITES’ law enforcement
capabilities, and create a permanent committee
charged with law enforcement oversight;
and debate” over the aim of Japan, Zimbabwe,
and allied nations “to reorient CITES toward
becoming a pro-trade agreement.”
With 134 member nations, CITES is
the most inclusive of all international wildlife
agreements. Most member nations have
endangered species protection laws of some
kind, and the European Union as a whole also
supports CITES, having passed a new law to
regulate the international wildlife traffic,
adopted December 12, addressing the situations
of an estimated 27,000 species.
Debate has raged since CITES was
first drafted, however, as to whether the
intent of CITES is “conservation” of species
for commercial use, the interpretation generally
favored by governments and the World
Wildlife Fund, or the protection of endangered
animals, the interpretation most popular
among animal advocacy groups, whose
donors are the largest sector of the public to
express an opinion.
The CITES argument parallels the
ongoing debate in the U.S. over the intent of
the Endangered Species Act, but in reverse.
Wise-users favor the “conservation” view of
CITES because unlike the ESA, CITES does
not protect habitat. Particularly important
habitats may be named World Heritage sites
by the United Nations and IUCN, but the designation
carries no legal force.
ESA landmark
By contrast, since conserving
species under the ESA implies legal restrictions
on property use, the wise-use position on
the ESA, as recently argued by House
Resources Committee chair Don Young (RAlaska)
is that it only requires protection of
individual members of endangered species.
One may, in Young’s interpretation, destroy
prime habitat for such an individual without
violating the intent of the ESA, if one doesn’t
directly and intentionally harm the individual.
Young claims this was his understanding when
in 1973, as a Congressional rookie, he voted
for the ESA.
But the Supreme Court on February
18 ruled Young was wrong, rejecting the
Pacific Lumber Company contention that U.S.
District Judge Louis Charles erred in 1993
when he banned logging in 137 acres of old
growth redwood and Douglas fir at the coastal
edge of the Owl Creek forest in northern
California to protect marbled murrelet nesting
habitat. The ruling was consistent with a 1995
Supreme Court verdict which likewise upheld
the use of the ESA to protect critical habitat as
well as actual endangered animals and plants.
Anti-ESA momentum was blunted
during the 104th Congress, but most of the
same members of the House and Senate are
back pushing similar bills, with Young again
as gatekeeper to the House floor. Taking
advantage of public anxiety over severe late
winter flooding to advance dismantling the
ESA piecemeal if it can’t be done all in one
act, the Resources Committee on April 15
approved a bill by California Republicans
Richard Pombo and Wally Herger to exempt
all flood control-related activity from ESA
requirements. The House Appropriations subcommittee
on the same day approved a rider to
the Flood Supplemental Appropriations bill
that would waive ESA provisions in relation to
“maintenance” activities to prevent “imminent
risk” of flooding, and was to take up the
Pombo/Herger bill on April 15.
“The Army Corps of Engineers’
maintenance dredging of the Ma’alaea Harbor
in Hawaii could cause damage to coral reefs
and threatened green sea turtles,” objected
Defenders of Wildlife, “but it could be
exempted from the ESA under this language.”
Both bills on ESA application to
flood control were introduced one day after a
California appellate court struck down a
decree by Governor Pete Wilson that suspended
the state ESA during floods and other natural
disasters. The California ESA covers 30
animals and 120 plants. The appellate decision
had no direct relation to federal ESA
Earlier, on March 12, the House
Resources Committee approved a bill by
Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) to give property
owners equal standing in suing the government
over ESA enforcement decisions with individuals
and organizations who sue on behalf of
species they consider inadequately protected.
Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho),
identified by Defenders of Wildlife as “author
of the worst ESA bill introduced in the Senate
last Congress,” brought forth a new ESA
rewrite in March, omitting a “takings” provision
to compensate landowners for protecting
endangered species, but––like the Chenoweth
bill––giving anyone affected by the ESA the
ability to sue the Secretary of the Interior to
challenge enforcement decisions. The
Kempthorne bill was unanimously endorsed
by Montana Senators Max Baucus (D) and
Conrad Burns (R), plus Montana House member
Rick Hill (R).
Arguments for the Chenoweth and
Kempthorne bills were undercut, however, by
a March 19 Supreme Court ruling that superficially
favored the wise-use side, reversing
previous rulings by the Federal District Court
in Eugene, Oregon, and the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The
Supreme Court held unanimously that southern
Oregon ranchers Brad Bennett and Mario
Giordano already have the right to sue the federal
government for allegedly doing them eco-

nomic harm by imposing overstrict regulations
on behalf of an endangered species––in this
case, two fish, the Lost River sucker and the
shortnosed sucker. The decision allows plaintiffs
to argue that species may be adequately
protected within the requirements of the ESA
by doing less than the USFWS or National
Marine Fisheries Service may demand. The
Supreme Court thereby expanded opportunities
for foes of ESA enforcement to seek
redress in court, but also provided a safety
valve against pressure to rewrite the ESA,
especially over so-called “takings.”
Wise-users and environmentalists
both cheered the verdict. “This is the first time
in years that the Supreme Court has broadened
standing in environmental cases,” Vermont
Law School environmental law center director
Patrick Parenteau told Linda Greenhouse of
The New York Times.
The verdict may also have implications
for costly but perhaps ecologically marginal
projects like the million-dollar effort at
the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
near Sesabe, Arizona, to recover the endangered
masked bobwhite quail. About 28,000
pen-raised masked bobwhite quail have been
released at the refuge over the past decade,
but as few as 300 survive; most are soon eaten
by coyotes, falcons, and bullsnakes. The
refuge occupies about 200 square miles formerly
leased for cattle grazing, still coveted
by local ranchers even as manager Wayne
Shifflett burns the non-native grass off at frequent
intervals to try to restore “the only
Sonoran savanna grasslands left in the U.S.”
Rancher Richard Bennett and the
Society for Environmental Truth have pushed
at the political level to oust Shifflet and regain
grazing rights. Bennett may now be able to
contend in court as well that the quail project
has caused him economic loss while failing to
achieve ESA goals.
Critical habitat
Recent scientific discoveries about
the nature of critical habitat may help smooth
the way toward both biologically and politically
acceptable resolution of the ESA-versusproperty
rights debate, if only by limiting the
scope of the issue. On January 24 Princeton
University ecologist Andrew P. Dobson and
associates published in S c i e n c e findings supporting
1988 and 1990 findings by British
ecologist Norman Myers that just 10 tropical
rainforest locales, amounting to two-tenths of
1% of the earth’s surface, host 13% of known
plant biodiversity.
Both the Dobson et al and Myers
findings were further reinforced in midFebruary
by primatologist Russell
Mittermeier, president of Conservational
International, whose team identified 17 international
biodiversity hot spots which occupy
under 2% of the terrestrial earth, but include
40% of all known plants and 25% of all known
vertebrate animals.
“The formula for endangered species
hot spots,” said David Wilcove of the
Environmental Defense Fund, a co-author of
the Dobson study, “is that you have a lot of
species with small ranges in areas undergoing
intensive development.”
D o b s o n et al found that only 13
counties in the entire U.S., making up just
1.33% of the total land mass, contained more
than half of the then 924 U.S. endangered
species. The endangered species count has
since increased to 1,051––about 1% of all
species known to occur in the U.S. Of all the
species known to occur since European settlement,
110 are known to be extinct, according
to the Nature Conservancy, while 416 are
“missing and feared extinct.”
Dobson and team discovered that six
counties had half the endangered mollusks;
seven counties had half the endangered reptiles
and amphibians; seven counties had half the
endangered mammals; nine counties had half
the endangered insects and arthropods; and 14
counties had half the endangered fish. For no
order was the combined area of these counties
greater than 2% of the U.S. land mass.
At the same time, Dobson et al
found that only the habitats of endangered
birds and arthropods tend to overlap. Two
exceptions to that finding were in the
California counties of San Diego and Santa
Cruz. Some San Diego county habitat
includes endangered fish, mammals, and
plants, while some sites in Santa Cruz county
include endangered arthropods, reptiles,
amphibians, and plants.
“There’s relatively little need to
worry that the entire nation will be awash in
endangered species,” said Wilcove. “The difficulty
is that protecting endangered species on
private lands has not been very successful.
That has been the Achilles heel of the ESA.
Some of these species are living on some pretty
pricey real estate.”
On April 16, the Oregon Supreme
Court ruled that Boise Cascade may seek governmental
compensation for loss of logging
rights in protected spotted owl habitat––a victory
for the “takings” legal theory favored by
wise-users, which holds that regulation affecting
the economic use of property is in effect a
form of expropriation. Court rulings have
gone either way, but in recent years momentum
favoring the “takings” theory seemed to
have slowed. The Boise Cascade victory may
now inspire a new rash of “takings” claims.
“If courts come down on the side
that any time you protect a species, you have
to pay for it, it will be very tough on the
species,” commented USFWS assistant
regional director Kurt Smitch.
Pursuing high-profile amicable settlements
of habitat disputes, Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt flew to Seattle for the January
30 signing of a Habitat Conservation Plan
jointly committing USFWS, the National
Marine Fisheries Service, and the Washington
Department of Natural Resources to protecting
multiple species on 1.6 million acres of
Washington state property.
“This is the largest HCP we have
ever prepared for forested lands and the first to
protect multiple species on state lands
statewide,” Babbitt said, promising that “a
wealth of fish and wildlife species may now
avoid the last-minute protections of the ESA.”
He heralded the deal as “providing certainty
and longterm economic opportunity” for
Washington rural residents.
Taking the cue, the Bureau of Land
Management on January 31 authorized Inland
Resources Inc. to proceed in developing 300
new oil and gas wells in the Monument Butte
field, near Vernal, Utah, after the company
agreed to take measures to avoid disturbing a
pair of resident ferruginous hawks, several
mountain plovers, and specimens of Uintah
Basin hookless cactus. Included in the package,
Inland Resources will fund a $15,000
study of ferruginous hawk population viability.
Babbitt took a personal role again on
March 17, praising the San Diego city council
for approving the designation of 172,000 acres
of San Diego County as a biological preserve
for 86 endangered or protected species,
including 57,000 acres within the city limits.
About half the land already belongs to federal,
state, or local governments; the county is to
buy another 27,000 acres over the next 30
years. Seven thousand affected private
landowners are allowed to develop 25% of
their holdings, leaving 75% to nature. The
agreement shaves up to seven years off the
permitting process for site development.
Strong suits
Despite Babbitt’s effort to defuse
conflict, new fights are still erupting and old
ones resuming––as on March 7, when the
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity
sued the Central Arizona Project, alleging that
endangered species protections it promised as
part of a 1994 settlement of a previous suit
have still not been fulfilled.
Known for aggressive legal action,
the Southwest Center two weeks later filed a
formal complaint against deputy Interior
Secretary John Garamendi for allegedly
improperly allowing dam operators to flood
Lake Isabella in January 1996 for the benefit
of irrigators, coinciding with a decline of
endangered southwestern willow flycatchers
from 34 nesting pairs near the lake to 29.
About a third of their habitat was submerged.
Explained Associated Press writer
Richard Cole, “USFWS district supervisor
Dale Hall, according to a January 23, 1996
memo, said Garamendi had told him he
planned to announce the dam would be filled,
and demanded an opinion to support it.
USFWS refused to rush the opinion, but
Garamendi went ahead anyway.” Further
memos, Cole wrote, indicate Garamendi was
anxious to avoid giving the influential farm
lobby a cause celebre against the ESA during
the 1996 election campaign.
Responding to another Southwest
Center lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Roger
Strand ruled on March 26 in Phoenix that the
southwestern willow flycatcher should receive
critical habitat protection. Two days earlier,
Strand issued similar rulings
on behalf of jaguars, the
cactus ferruginous pygmy
owl, the Sonora tiger salamander,
and the Huacha
water umbel, a rare plant.
Interior Secretary Babbitt
objected to no avail that
Congress has not given the
USFWS enough funding to
designate critical habitat.
Responded Strand, demanding
the designations within
120 days, “Agencies do not
have carte blanche to decide
not to carry out their duties
under the guise of resource
allocation. Congress, not the courts, is the
proper body to provide funding relief.”
The Strand rulings may inspire the
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund to sue soon
on behalf of the Santa Ana sucker. The
SCLDF nominated the sucker for an ESA listing
in 1994, after discovering that it had
declined from common to occupying just four
known habitats in only 20 years. “It’s our conclusion
that we should propose it for listing,”
USFWS biologist Paul Barrett said on April 2,
responding to the SCLDF petition under a
court order to do so, “but we have such a large
workload that it’s not the highest priority.”
The SCLDF on March 19 sued
Montana lumber baron Tom Blixeth and the
city of Rancho Mirage, California, alleging
that Blixeth got approval to build an 18-hole
golf course on critical habitat for bighorn
sheep by using a 10-year-old impact report
that was written for a 530-house subdivision.
The SCLDF objection is that the golf course
may draw the 95 remaining members of the
Santa Rosa Mountains bighorn herd into dangerous
proximity to humans. The herd count
was 325 when the impact report was written.
After a year-long moratorium on
adding species to the federal endangered and
threatened lists during the 104th Congress, the
USFWS is working on the backlog. Ninety
species were listed within 12 months after the
moratorium ended, most of them native
Hawaiian plants. The Quino checkerspot and
Laguna Mountains skipper became the ninth
and tenth southern California butterflies to
receive ESA protection on January 17. About
225 of the 700 North American butterfly
species are found in southern California. Most
are suffering from habitat loss, perhaps none
more than the Quino, among the most common
species 30 years ago but now found only
at six California sites and one in Mexico.
Responding to a Biodiversity Legal
Defense Foundation petition filed in 1995, the
USFWS proposed the Preble’s meadow jumping
mouse for an endangered listing on March
25. Native to Colorado and Wyoming, the
mouse may be most plentiful on the grounds of
the U.S. Air Force Academy, where about 100
live along stream banks.
The USFWS in mid-April downlisted
the Dismal Swamp shrew, native to the
Virginian coastal plain, after colonies were
discovered in a much broader range than was
previously suspected. In the interim,
Portsmouth spent $300,000 to restore shrew
habitat destroyed by installing a water main,
and Virginia Beach held up building a bridge
for a year while seeking shrew-safe construction

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