[This piece originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.]
With more tigers in American backyards, basements and bathrooms than the wild, it’s worth pausing on Endangered Species Day to consider whether new federal protections for tigers are enough.
On May 6, just days after a tiger that had apparently been used for photo-ops in Florida was found roaming the streets of Conroe following last month’s floods, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed a loophole in its Endangered Species Act regulations. After nearly two decades of looking the other way while hundreds of captive tigers are trafficked in the United States every year, the agency began treating tigers the same as other endangered wildlife.
To protect imperiled species like tigers, the Endangered Species Act prohibits a host of activities, including importing, exporting, selling, killing, harming, harassing and wounding protected wildlife, whether captive or wild.
The law allows for exceptions in a narrow category of cases, when the activity that is prohibited would actually serve to help the species. For example, Mexican wolves might be imported into the United States to repopulate their original ranges in Arizona and New Mexico.
When enacting the Endangered Species Act, Congress made clear that such exceptions were intended to be few and far between.
Despite this intent, Fish and Wildlife tried to formally adopt a rule to allow prohibited Continue reading