March 16, 2016
African Elephants Move One Step Closer to Endangered Listing under US Law
Fish and Wildlife Service responds positively to petition from animal protection groups to up-list African elephants from ‘Threatened’ to ‘Endangered’; long process still ahead
In a positive response to a scientific petition submitted last year by animal protection groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said increased Endangered Species Act protections may be warranted for the African elephant. Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare submitted the original petition on Feb. 11, 2015.
Following today’s preliminary positive finding on the petition, the FWS will now invite information from scientists and the public about the African elephants’ status and threats to determine whether an Endangered listing would be appropriate. With some exceptions, an Endangered listing would prohibit the import of African elephant trophies as well as the import, export and domestic trade in elephant parts, including ivory.
Teresa M. Telecky, Ph.D., director of the wildlife department at HSI, said: “The science clearly supports an Endangered listing for the African elephant and we are encouraged the U.S. has taken this critical step toward greater protection for this majestic species.”
“Today’s decision is a critical step in the government’s promise to protect elephants,” said Peter LaFontaine, campaigns officer, IFAW. “The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful law we have in this country to safeguard elephants against the unnecessary threats of trade and trophy hunting. We thank the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for recognizing that the species is becoming more critically endangered and stronger protections may be warranted.”
African elephant populations have declined 60 percent since the FWS listed them as Threatened in 1978. The steep decline is largely a result of habitat loss, poaching, commercial exploitation, trophy hunting, human-elephant conflict, regional conflict and instability, and climate change. Between 2005 and 2014, trophy hunters imported parts of 4,600 African elephants to the U.S.
If the government moves forward with heightened protections under the Endangered Species Act, the import, export and interstate sale of African elephant parts would be prohibited in the United States, unless such activity can be shown to enhance the survival of the species.