Tag Archives: lions

Feds issues rule on handling exotic cat cubs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week issued guidance making clear that exhibitors violate the Animal Welfare Act by allowing members of the public to handle or feed  tiger cubs, as well as lions, cheetahs, jaguars or leopards under 4 weeks old.

The guidance is in response to a 2012 legal petition filed by The Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Detroit Zoological Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, Big Cat Rescue, Fund for Animals and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

“We applaud USDA for taking this first step to put roadside zoos and the public on notice that federal law prohibits using infant cubs for photographic opportunities and interactive experiences,” Anna Frostic, senior attorney for wildlife & animal research at The Humane Society of the United States, stated in a news release issued on April 5.

The petition said dozens of facilities across the country routinely breed and acquire exotic feline species — all of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act — to produce a supply of cubs for profit.

“Both animals and people are put in harm’s way when big cats are used for public contact exhibition – young cubs are particularly susceptible to disease, especially when deprived of necessary maternal care, and cubs quickly grow into dangerous predators that can cause serious injury to adults and children,” said Jeff Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

In contrast to zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, “there are thousands of big cats in private menageries in the U.S. and these facilities do not have the resources or expertise to safely and responsibly care for dangerous wild animals,” Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society, stated in the news release.  Conservation professionals agree that endangered and threatened species like tigers, lions, and apes should not be bred for commercial purposes.

“The insatiable demand for cubs and baby primates used at interactive exhibits fuels a vicious cycle of breeding and exploitation. It is standard in this horrific industry to separate babies from their mothers, and then discard them when they grow too big for handling,” Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, added in the news release.

The propagation of tigers in the United States has resulted in a captive population that is nearly twice the number of tigers that exist in the wild, according to The HSUS.

“Cubs used for petting, if they survive, typically spend many years living in substandard facilities and the few who are lucky enough to eventually end up at good sanctuaries typically arrive with medical issues caused by deficient care,” said Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

In addition to these animal welfare, public safety and conservation concerns, “the surplus of exotic animals in roadside zoos and other substandard facilities puts an enormous financial burden on the accredited sanctuaries that provide lifetime care for abandoned and seized animals,” according to Michael Markarian, president of The Fund for Animals.

Investigations have revealed that using tiger cubs for photo ops and play sessions can yield over $20,000 per month for a roadside zoo, fueling demand for more and more cubs – but once the cats mature, their future is uncertain. “There is just not enough space or resources at accredited sanctuaries to support the demand created by this irresponsible breeding,” said Kellie Heckman, executive director of Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Editor’s note: This report was updated on April 8.

U.S. hunters annually import 126,000 ‘wildlife trophies’

U.S. hunters import about 126,000 “wildlife trophies” annually and killed about 1.26 million animals between 2005 and 2014.

Humane Society International and The Human Society of the United States released earlier in February “Trophy Hunting by the Numbers: the United States’ Role in Global Trophy Hunting.”

Trophy hunting is the killing of animals for body parts, such as the head and hide, for display and not primarily for food and sustenance. A recent study examining the motivation for these hunts found that U.S. hunters glamorize the killing of an animal to demonstrate virility, prowess and dominance.

The report uses analysis of hunting trophy import data obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and contains these findings:

• Trophies are primarily imported from Canada and South Africa. They are followed by Namibia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Tanzania, Argentina, Zambia and Botswana.

• The species most favored by trophy hunters include American black bears, impalas, common wildebeests, greater kudus, gemsboks, springboks and bonteboks.

• Trophy hunters highly covet the African big five. The import numbers for 2005-14 are 5,600 African lions, 4,600 African elephants, 4,500 African leopards, 330 southern white rhinos and 17,200 African buffalo.

All of these species, except the African buffalo, are near threatened or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

• The U.S. ports of entry importing the most wildlife trophies during the decade were New York, New York; Pembina, North Dakota; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; and Portal, North Dakota.

“This report clearly shows the dire impact American trophy hunters are having on wildlife in other countries,” said Teresa M. Telecky, director of the wildlife department at HIS.

She continued, “It’s outrageous that every year hunters take the lives of thousands of animals, many threatened with extinction, just to win a prize and show off. These animals need protection, not to be mounted on a wall. The fact that rare, majestic species are entering the U.S. in large and small ports of entry should alarm lawmakers and the public concerned about trophy hunting.”

Hunting groups promote the hunts, offering accolades and awards to club members. The largest of these groups, Safari Club International, recently concluded its convention in Las Vegas, where more than 300 mammal hunts for more than 600 animals were auctioned off and other hunts arranged privately on the exhibit floor. An African lion trophy hunt can cost $13,500-$49,000. An African elephant hunt can cost $11,000-$70,000.

SCI often uses the revenue from hunt sales to lobby against wildlife protection measures.

For certain species, including lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos, the United States is the largest trophy importing country.

HSI and The HSUS, in a statement on the report, pledged to continue to seek new protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act for species that meet the criteria for listing.

The African lion is the latest species to receive ESA protection after a multi-year effort by animal protection organizations, including HSI and The HSUS.

The groups also are seeking increased ESA protections for species currently listed in a lower category of protection, as was recently done for the African elephant. HSI and The HSUS are also urging corporations — such as Swarovski Optik  — to end sponsorship of trophy hunting advocacy organizations, as well as reaching out to more airlines and other transport companies to ban the transport of trophies.

Obama administration enacts protections for lions

The Obama administration’s decision to extend Endangered Species Act protections for two breeds of lions is a turning point for the lions now roaming Africa, advocacy groups say.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signaled in a document obtained by the Associated Press that it would classify the lion as threatened or endangered across its entire range in Africa. The agency has scheduled a noon conference call to discuss its findings.

The Humane Society of the United States projects that American trophy hunters imported 5,647 lions in the past decade. The group’s president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, said he expects that the regulations will make it much harder to bring lion hides back to the U.S, thus removing a key motivation for hunters.

“If a particular hunt is not associated with a broader conservation program, it can’t come in,” Pacelle said.

The listings are accompanied by a directive that appears to touch on circumstances surrounding the killing of a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe earlier this year. The order states that the Fish and Wildlife Service will deny a permit to import a sport-hunted lion to anyone who has been convicted or pleaded guilty to violating federal or state wildlife laws.

Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, had pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside an authorized hunting zone.

The Fish and Wildlife Service cautioned against linking the order with Cecil’s death, describing the action instead as a redoubling of efforts to ensure that violators of wildlife laws don’t reap future benefits from importing wildlife and wildlife products.

The administration signaled it would protect lions in Africa long before Cecil’s case caught the public’s attention. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule in October 2014 to list the African lion as threatened. After getting feedback, the agency revised its findings.

It determined that two subspecies of lions live in Africa. One group, found primarily in western and central countries, is more genetically related to the Asiatic lion. Only about 1,400 remain in Africa and India. The agency is listing that subspecies as endangered, meaning it risks extinction.

A second subspecies, numbering between 17,000 and 19,000 and found across southern and eastern Africa, will be listed as threatened.

The Endangered Species Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to list species as endangered or threatened regardless of the country where they live.

“If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the Africa savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us _ not just the people of Africa and India _ to take action,” said Dan Ashe, the agency’s director.

The listings will bring extra protection for both subspecies: A permit would be required before importing any live or sport-hunted lions. The bar for an import permit would be highest with the endangered group, with permits granted if importing the animal would enhance the species’ survival.

The permitting process for the threatened group would require the import to come from nations that have sound conservation practices and use trophy hunting revenue to sustain lion populations and deter poaching. Currently, sport hunters don’t need a permit from the U.S. to bring in a trophy lion.

Ashe said trophy hunting can and does contribute to the survival of species in the wild as part of a well-managed conservation program. The new permitting requirements in the U.S. will encourage African countries to improve their lion management programs. The agency said hundreds of sport-hunted trophy lions are brought into the U.S. each year.

The agency already has authority to deny an import permit to individuals who have violated federal and state wildlife laws. Ashe’s order essentially turns that authority into a requirement.

“Importing sport-hunted trophies and other wildlife or animal parts into the United States is a privilege, not a right, a privilege that violators of wildlife laws have demonstrated they do not deserve,” Ashe said.

The agency said its investigation into the Cecil’s killing is ongoing and declined to comment directly on the case.

Cecil was a major tourist attraction in Hwange National Park and was being monitored as part of an Oxford University study. Palmer said he shot the big cat outside the park’s borders, but it didn’t die immediately and was tracked down the next day.

Palmer said he would not have shot the animal if anybody in the hunting party has known of the lion’s status. Zimbabwe officials cleared Palmer of wrongdoing in October, saying he didn’t break the country’s hunting laws.

Washington voters approve comprehensive measure against wildlife trafficking

Washington voters on Nov. 3 approved a measure to severely restrict the trade in parts of 10 species of animals threatened with extinction.

Initiated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and backed by The Humane Society of the United States, the ballot measure bans the trade in the parts of elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, pangolins, leopards, cheetahs, sharks, rays and marine turtles and is the nation’s most comprehensive anti-wildlife-trafficking law enacted in any state.

The ballot measure passed in all 39 counties.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release, “This is an enormous momentum-builder for the movement in the United States to shut down the commerce in trinkets, powders and pelts that are driving some of the world’s most iconic creatures to the precipice of extinction. The animals need their tusks, horns, heads and hides more than we do, and Washington voters have given our movement a shot in the arm with this resounding vote.”

The political committee known as Save Endangered Animals Oregon, also led by The Humane Society of the United States, is seeking to qualify a similar initiative in Oregon and to pass it in 2016.

Volunteers have gathered a preliminary round of more than 1,500 signatures, which have been submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State.

A second, much larger, round of signature gathering could begin by the end of the year, with the goal of placing the Save Endangered Animals Oregon measure on the November 2016 ballot.

The Humane Society of the United States and its partners are working across the country to shut down the market for parts of these rare and threatened species. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibits the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn, and in 2014, New Jersey and New York passed similar laws at our urging.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is working to adopt a final federal rule to stem the illegal ivory trade in the United States.

The U.S. is the second largest market for ivory products in the world after China. Last month, the president of China announced his country would replicate a U.S. ban on the commercial trade in ivory.

“With the efforts at the state and federal level in the United States and the decision by China to join our movement, we have an incredible opportunity to put a stop to the mass slaughter of elephants and other creatures around the world,” said Pacelle.

Wisconsin lawmaker proposes exotic animal ban

Lions and tigers and bears — maybe in Oz, but not in Wisconsin if one Republican legislator gets his way.

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R- Racine. is pushing a bill that would prohibit people from owning dangerous exotic animals, including lions, tigers, polar bears, gorillas and alligators. The measure comes as Milwaukee police, the state Department of Natural Resources and animal control officers search for a mysterious lion-like creature that has roamed the city for the last few weeks. Animal control officials believe the animal is likely a released or escaped lion.

Wanggaard said in a memo to his fellow legislators seeking co-sponsors for his bill that the measure was inspired by the Milwaukee lion hunt, as well as a 2013 incident in which police and the Racine Zoological Society discovered nearly half-a-dozen rattlesnakes, two alligators, a crocodile, an alligator snapping turtle and a Gila monster in a Kenosha residence. The senator said escaped exotic pets tax limited municipal resources and put emergency responders and citizens in danger.

“These animals pose a significant threat to the safety of Wisconsin residents,” Wanggaard, a former police officer, wrote in the memo. “This is common sense legislation that will keep citizens, law enforcement, and emergency responders safe.”

Wisconsin is one of five states that don’t regulate exotic animal ownership, according to Born Free USA, a national nonprofit organization that works to protect wildlife and encourage conservation, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State residents need a license from the DNR to possess a wild animal that’s native to Wisconsin. They can own non-native animals such as a lion without a license, unless the animal is endangered or threatened or has been deemed a harmful wild animal, such as a cougar, wild pig or bear, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Wanggaard’s bill would prohibit the private possession, propagation and sale of dangerous exotic animals, including nonnative big cats such as lions and tigers; nonnative bears, including brown bears, panda bears and polar bears; apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees and gibbons; and crocodilians, including alligators, crocodiles and caimans. Vets, zoos, circuses, federally licensed research facilities and wildlife sanctuaries could still legally possess such creatures.

People who own dangerous exotic animals before the bill takes effect would be allowed to keep the creatures if they register the animals with their municipality. They would have to inform police if their animals escape.

Karen Sparapani, executive director of the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, which is working to capture the creature roaming Milwaukee, said she hadn’t seen the bill but supports banning private possession of large mammals.

“Most people with exotic animals, especially smaller reptiles, are responsible,” Sparapani said. “But it’s these large mammals regular people can’t provide a quality of life to. They’re simply being born for people’s vanity and that’s wrong.”

Wanggaard’s co-sponsorship memo said a coalition of groups support the measure, including the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies and League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Curt Witynski, assistant director of the municipal league, said the bill should help conserve local resources.

“Our concern stems from mainly law enforcement and other staff resources that are used to try and deal with these situations where these animals get loose or are abandoned,” Witynski said. “We thought (the bill) would be a good idea and it’s a good time (to bring it forward) with the spotlight on this animal in Milwaukee right now.”

Wanggaard’s memo sets an Aug. 12 deadline for co-sponsors to sign on. The bill’s chances are unclear. Legislators are on summer recess and aren’t expected to return to Madison until mid-September.

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Fitzgerald hasn’t reviewed the bill yet and with no caucus meeting scheduled it’s unclear when Senate Republicans will discuss it. Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said only that Vos was reviewing the measure.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Sparapani said the search for the Milwaukee creature was still ongoing as the weekend approached. Officials believe the creature is a juvenile African lion, she said. The creature probably won’t last long in a hot urban environment, Sparapani said. It should be able to find water but potential prey animals tend to remain stationary during the hot summer days, making it difficult for the creature to hunt and find enough daily protein to sustain itself.

Report: USDA agency kills 2.7 million wild animals in 2014

New data from the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services reveals that the somewhat secretive agency killed more than 2.7 million animals during fiscal year 2014, including wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals.

The services killed more than 4 million animals in 2013.

The latest report shows the killing of 322 gray wolves, 61,702 coyotes, 580 black bears, 305 mountain lions, 796 bobcats, 454 river otters, 2,930 foxes, three bald eagles, five golden eagles and 22,496 beavers, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The program also killed 15,698 black-tailed prairie dogs and destroyed more than 33,309 of their dens.

Also, agency insiders have revealed that the agency kills many more animals than it reports.

“It’s sickening to see these staggering numbers and to know that so many of these animals were cut down by aerial snipers, deadly poisons and traps,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These acts of brutality are carried out every day, robbing our landscapes of bears, wolves, coyotes and other animals that deserve far better. Wildlife Services does its dirty work far from public view and clearly has no interest in cleaning up its act.”

Many animals – especially wolves, coyotes and prairie dogs – were targeted and killed on behalf of livestock grazers or other powerful agricultural interests, according to CBD. Wildlife Services does not reveal how many animals were wounded or injured, but not killed.

The report also shows that hundreds animals were killed unintentionally, including 390 river otters, as well as hundreds of badgers, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, jackrabbits, muskrats, raccoons, skunks, opossums, porcupines and 16 pet dogs.  

The data show that the federal program has refused to substantially slow its killing despite a growing public outcry, an ongoing investigation by the Agriculture Department’s inspector general, and calls for reform by scientists, members of Congress and nongovernmental organizations.

“Wildlife Services continues to thumb its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual,” said Atwood. “This appalling and completely unnecessary extermination of American wildlife must stop.”

Just since 1996 Wildlife Services has shot, poisoned and strangled by snare more than 27 million native animals.