Will new tiger protections go far enough?

Delcianna J. Winders, Academic Fellow, Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School

[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.

But the agency’s permitting policies may critically limit the impact of this change.

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. Continue reading

Burning Ivory to Spread the Message – Hard Hitting New Videos Released

Joyce Tischler, founder and general counsel, Animal Legal Defense Fund

African elephants are running out of time. Homo sapiens, a species that by most accounts is overpopulating the planet, is brutally killing elephants at the rate of 96 per day. By some estimates, African elephants will be extinct in approximately one decade. Every elephant death is disturbing and the thought of
no more wild elephants is beyond comprehension. The inane reason we are killing them is to seize their tusks—ivory, a coveted product that is valued by humans more highly than live elephants. You may already know that. So, here’s some promising news:

On April 30, 2016, Kenya burned 105 tons of ivory, along with over one ton of rhino horns and the confiscated skins of thousands of other wild animals in a strong public statement of support and respect for its native


Photo by Tim Gorski

wildlife. This burning has been captured on video by Tim Gorski, a documentary filmmaker who is currently working on the elephant issue.

It’s eerie to watch these videos and realize that each pair of tusks belonged to someone (not something) who was highly intelligent and social, and Continue reading

Scarface: In the end, the end was a bullet


R. Hillegas photo in Cody Enterprise; click image for article

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

A bullet stopped Scarface. The famously recognizable grizzly bear with a fan base in Yellowstone was a 25-year-old elder in declining health. Given that fewer than five percent of male bears born in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem survive to age 25, he’d already beaten monumental odds. That is, until he met up with a hunter’s bullet last November north of Gardiner, MT–Yellowstone’s northern gate–and a stone’s throw from the national park. Scarface was robbed of a natural death on his own terms–robbed of the where and the when he would have lain down for the last time. It isn’t hard to imagine that it would have been within the relatively safe boundaries of Yellowstone, the home where he spent most of his long, bear’s life.  Continue reading

Wolverines: Quest to protect magnificent mustelids continues


Photo: Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com via AP

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

News flash: Climate change imperils wolverines and Feds must act! That’s the recent headline from ABC news, reporting on court proceedings in Missoula, Montana. On Monday, April 4th, “U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to act as quickly as possible to protect the species as it becomes vulnerable to a warming planet.”

Cue the climate change deniers and those who don’t know much of anything about wolverines: “Wolverines are tough animals. I really don’t think ‘climate change’ is anything they can’t handle,” said one commenter at the Missoulian Facebook page.“There is no evidence suggesting that wolverines will not adapt sufficiently to diminished late spring snow pack (assuming there is any) to maintain viability,” wrote Wyoming governor Matt Mead back in May of 2013 (in the Northern Rockies, Montana and Idaho also opposed listing). But snow joke–snow matters. Wolverines are obligate snow denners who require remote, deep, and usually high elevations snow fields that persist well into spring. This is where natal and maternal dens enable them to birth and raise their young–in other words, enable them to surviveContinue reading

Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting: Have your say


T. Mangelson photo; click image for info

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

As I write, over 400 comments have been recorded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on its proposal to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from Endangered Species Act protection. That’s 400+ comments in the first 10 or so days since the comment period opened (it closes May 10, 2016, at 11:59 PM ET). If the comments below (original spelling intact) whet your appetite for more, know that some 17 webpages are available for your perusal:

“This is the time that the FWS needs to STOP catering to the special interest groups and take into consideration the thousands and thousands of people from everywhere who come to the Yellowstone region to view wildlife in their element – NOT to support trophy or sport hunting. Hasn’t the death of CECIL taught you anything? … DO NOT DELIST THE GRIZZLY BEARS…”  

“There are way too many Grizzly’s! They are wounding and killing people!!! Are we really that stupid!!! It is damn scary going hunting with these things around. I wish the knuckleheads that protect these beasts would go wonder the woods so they can feed on them!!!” 

“I write to OPPOSE the proposed delisting. My family visited Yellowstone a couple of years ago. We were fortunate enough to see a mother grizzly with her three cubs. …It was magical, amazing and connected my children to nature in a way they have never forgotten. Delisting these bears would be premature. …Indeed, the number one cause of death for grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem these days is human. Delisting would only exacerbate this.”

“Congratulations to the USFWS! Exactly what the ESA was created to accomplish. Please don’t allow the anti-hunter/environmentalist crowd to obstruct responsible state managed hunting seasons. Please support the North American “model” of wildlife management that has for over 100 years proven to be successful!”

“I’m opposed to removing the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The support for delisting is primarily the result of a right wing political movement against the endangered species act itself. The science is being sacrificed for politics. The bears and ecosystem they support, are also being sacrificed. Follow the science. Ignore the politics. Do what you know is right.”

“It’s about time! … the grizzlies are out of control. The ecosystem can no longer sustain them at the rate they are expanding, I fully support this delisting and look forward to grizzlies being managed just like the other animals that have been a part of the extremely successful North American model of conservation. Please don’t let environmentalists interfere with facts and reason.”

“I strongly oppose the delisting of Grizzly Bears … Do not give in to those who would see these important bears as nothing more than a threat to their livestock, or a trophy to be gunned down. Allow science, not political pandering, to be the measuring stick of true recovery.”

“It is time to let the hunters do there part in conservation. Full support.”

But be forewarned–wading into this fray might set your head to spinning. Both sides claim that science is on their side. Many commenters–those clamoring for trophy hunting–consistently call for management to be turned over to the states in what is certainly an orchestrated campaign by hunting groups. Bears have lost their fear of humans, and hunting will fix that is another theme. A cattle association president bellyaches about “calf loss rates” due to grizzlies on national forest grazing allotments–the very same citizen-owned public lands that native grizzlies should have uncontested access to.

Remember Bear 399? You got acquainted with this special griz in “Bear 399: Delisting the grizzly you know.” The arguments against the premature delisting proposal are all laid out there: critical changes in food supply; habitat expansion and connectivity obstacles; immediate trophy hunting; too many conflict-related mortalities; and one that I failed to mention in that post (super-mom 399 notwithstanding)–“grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, due to their late age of first reproduction, small average litter size, and the long interval between litters: it may take a single female 10 years to replace herself in a population” (source). A list of good resources is also attached to that post. Everything needed to make a decent, succinct comment is there.

Will our comments against delisting change anything? Probably not. But let the final tally show that more people were selflessly concerned with species survival than with bragging rights to taxidermy mounts and bearskin rugs. I hold in my imagination the beautiful image of a human mom pointing out to her awe-struck kids the sight of a grizzly mom tending her own kids as she attempts to make her way through a human-dominated world that holds both wonder and respect for her life…and bullets for her death.

Links to documents & commenting:

  • Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Removing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Population of Grizzly Bears From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, here. Includes link to docket folder, summary, and extensive supplementary and background information.
  • Docket folder summary: Includes a few comments, a link to “view all” comments, and a “comment now” button for your own two cents.

Channel your inner wolverine!


Click image for details

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

Happy Wolverine Birthday! According to the Wolverine Foundation, February 14th is the day designated to symbolically mark the birth of wolverine kits. They come into the world under five inches long, weighing 3.5-5.11 ounces, and covered in white fur. They sometimes hang with one or the other parent for up to two years before going their own scrappy way.

Just a few days ago, on Feb. 9th, Gulo gulo’s lawyers were in a Missoula, Montana courtroom where a U.S. District judge heard arguments pertaining to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s denial of Endangered Species Act protection for wolverines–specifically examining whether the decision was reasonable…or arbitrary (article).   Continue reading

Bear 399: Delisting the grizzly you know

P1120382Kathleen Stachowski    
Other Nations

We humans don’t relate well to nonhuman animals at the population level–so goes the theory. But give us the particulars about a specific individual–tell us his or her story–and we get it: this is someone who has an interest in living. Someone with places to go…kids to raise…food to procure. Like us, this is someone who wants to avoid danger–while living the good life. This is an individual with a story–and a history.   Continue reading