SciSun: All for one and None for All   Leave a comment

Have you ever heard of the addax antelope (Addax nasomaculatus)? Or the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah)? How about the dama gazelle (Gazella dama)? Well, that’s understandable because these three range-runners (not to be confused with the Range Rover, an expensive British car) aren’t from North America but from the Sahara Desert in in Africa. That is, all three species did live in that desert for thousands of years, but now the scimitar oryx is extinct within the entire range of its original home, a victim of hunting; drought and loss of food; and growing human populations. In fact, things in Africa aren’t looking positive for the addax or dama gazelle either, as both species (along with just about all other types of large African wildlife), are facing pressures and challenges to survival every day due to climate change, human development, and loss of natural habitat.

The Addax antelope  (Addax nasomaculatus);

The Addax antelope;

But oddly enough, all three of these mammals – related to deer, sheep, and goats – are thriving in, of all places, Texas! Maybe not exactly thriving, because the reason they are in the Lone Star State isn’t because of a rescue program but because they are being held on private ranches so ‘sportsmen’ can hunt exotic animals. And in an even more implausible twist, while each of these species is endangered – or extinct – in their native home; and as recently as 2012 they were listed in the United States as officially Endangered, protected species – these ‘Three Amigos‘, as they are known among antelope researchers and friends-of-the-antelope, have just been designated as exempt from any future protection in the United States.

Scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah)

Scimitar-horned oryx; and

But the reasoning behind this decision is the real story. In the time when the ‘Amigos’ were protected as Endangered Species, their populations continued to fall (probably because they were considered ‘game animals’ and not unique, worthwhile species that needed to be carefully monitored and cared for). So, say those who believe there is more value in dead animals than strong, thriving species, the only way to ‘save’ these animals is not by protecting them but by charging hunters hundreds or thousands of dollars for ‘safaris’ where they can hunt and shoot the antelope. Then, they argue, ranchers will realize the ‘worth’ of keeping the ‘stock’ healthy (until they’re shot), and take care to keep the herd population at reasonable levels so more hunters can pay to hunt what are essentially fenced-in animals. As one hunter stated: “An exemption would give these species real value, and that, in turn, clears the way for their numbers to go back up.” Because for some, no animal has ‘value’ unless a price tag can be hung around its neck.

But this brings up the question, if the antelope and oryx and gazelle are not native to North America, should they be protected – or even considered – for U.S. Endangered status protection? All species are important and irreplaceable parts of an environmental whole; if the animal, or plant, or any species is removed from their natural environment, and placed in situations where there is no scientific oversight, intention or plan to care for the animals so one day the species can be returned to their native environments – as has been successfully undertaken with many species – would protecting them benefit anything but the individual animals themselves? And if the lives of a few remaining individuals are spent on a game hunting ranch, to one day be hunted and shot, is this the life an animal should live?

Dama gazelle (Gazella dama).  We are, the Three Amigos!

Dama gazelle. We are, the Three Amigos!

On January 17, in a decision that could become not just famous, but INfamous, the bill was passed that removes protection from the ‘Three Amigos’ and allows hunters and ranch owners to take whatever actions they decide is ‘best’ for these Texas transplants. It’s a fair guess the ‘best’ will be more hunting and less access for scientists and researchers hoping to understand and save three species that when gone, are gone forever. Gone, that is, except for the trophies hanging on a hunters wall.


Michonne Says: Does this story mean the men can do anything they want to the animals and no one can stop them? Isn’t that what most men do already?

Posted January 26, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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