Humane Society International (HSI), the international wing of the Humane Society of the United States, has made a direct attack on Conservation Force’s critical projects for “endangered” Eld’s deer in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand. It has once again gone to our conservation partners and intimidated them into refusing to accept the hundreds of thousands of dollars (over a period of years) that we have been directing to restoration projects for Eld’s deer in this species’ countries of origin in Asia.
The projects are part of Conservation Force’s Ranching for Restoration Program. In that program, Conservation Force gets a small percentage of the revenue from the hunting of certain exotics in the US that are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In turn, Conservation Force funds projects in the countries of origin of the respective species, such as the native countries of Eld’s deer in this instance. The establishment and funding of those projects in the native lands is the “enhancement” of the survival and perpetuation of the species that must be demonstrated for the ranchers in the US to get cull permits to control their surplus Eld’s deer through limited hunting. Of course, the culling is a necessary management tool itself to maintain the health of the herds, and the ranchers’ hunting revenue offsets the stewardship expenses. The percentage that is funneled into Conservation Force’s projects in Asia is the lifeblood of those Asian projects and necessary for the issuance of the permits.
HSI’s intent is to prevent the hunting by disrupting the acceptance of the money by Conservation Force’s partners and the expenditures of those funds. By acting as a conduit of the funds, Conservation Force has been able to spare ranchers the headaches they used to have when the projects rejected their funds after HSUS threatened them. Conservation Force substituted for them over a decade ago. Conservation Force establishes worthy restoration projects in Asia and even provides free legal services to ranchers to obtain their captive breeding and cull/hunt permits. It is not as easy to intimidate Conservation Force or to disrupt the chain of funds to the necessary projects because Conservation Force is a member of IUCN and yours truly serves on various Specialist Groups, such as both the Deer and Antelope Specialist Groups of IUCN, which readily and responsibly need the funds. Conservation Force is in the business of using hunting as a force for the conservation of species. The funds pass through Conservation Force without administrative fees or charges of any kind and are generally augmented, if not fully matched, by Conservation Force and its partners. Conservation Force and its supporting partners, such as Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club, African Safari Club of Florida and the International Professional Hunters Association, bear the administrative costs of the program.
This time, HSI threatened Conservation Force’s project revenue recipients with public ridicule, loss of membership and controversy if they accepted the money from Conservation Force and pressured them to notify the USFWS that they are no longer partners and will not accept the money from Conservation Force that is necessary for the captive-bred and cull permits issued to US ranchers. The HSI aim is to eliminate the exotic game hunting even though it is the primary source of revenue for the restoration projects.
This is a deliberate attempt to obstruct an ESA recovery program of the USF&WS and the conservation purpose of the ESA. HSUS has once more demonstrated it places its campaign against hunting above the welfare of animals and even the very survival of the entire species. They would rather see the species cease to exist than be hunted, and they have told me so on more than one occasion.
Their objective is to make it impossible for the ranches (mostly in Texas) to get the necessary permits to operate. The ranches must have projects restoring these species, as this is the basis of the enhancement finding required for their operating (cull) permits. Though Conservation Force is there to see HSUS does not succeed, the intimidation can and has disrupted restoration and perpetuation efforts. Projects fold without needed revenue, and few have enough support. Some decade old recovery-related projects will no doubt be discontinued.
In fact, the HSI strategy obstructs projects and interferes with the continuity, but it does not stop the permitting if we stay a step ahead. Some herds that have been restored will succumb without the funding. In those cases, all the money that has been expended on them will have gone for nothing, or at least not have served to further the long-term survival of that particular dependent population.
There is no doubt that hunters and ranchers are the heroes and stewards in this instance, while the animal rightists are the villains. They would “rather see the species cease to exist than be hunted.” They are attempting to blow out candles of hope across Asia.
Conservation Force has had its Ranching for Restoration Program for over a decade. We have been able in the past to institute new projects in range nations to stay ahead of the sabotage. Still, what a shame! One project compromised by HSI was more than 10 years old and, like many of the others, is the foremost restoration effort in the world for the species.
It does raise concern if the scimitar-horned oryx, Dama gazelle and addax are also put under the same project-dependent permit system as proposed by USF&WS (76 FR 39804, July 7, 2011). The animal rights organizations succeeded in having a court order issued that individual ranch permits and publication of the applications was a legal necessity. Now they have made an all-out attack to prevent the caretakers and stakeholders with the exotics from getting permits that they learn of through the court-ordered publication. It may be time for the USF&WS to find that culling is an ordinary and necessary management practice to maintain captive-bred species within carrying capacity, thus enhancement without additional proof of related projects in range countries. We have called these developments to the attention of the USF&WS and made the suggestion that the system be changed to protect the benefits from the two-sided attack (court order to publish and issue individual ranch permits and threats to recipients of conservation funds from the same ranch permittees.) In the meantime, Conservation Force and its Texas conservation partners are doing more for these species in need than all the animal rights organizations combined – but you knew that. Regulated hunting does not threaten species, but “animal rights” does.