U.S. and Mongolian Scientists and Animal Protection Groups File Lawsuit to Prevent Import of Endangered Argali Sheep Killed by Trophy Hunters

Apr 16, 2001, 01:00 ET from The Fund for Animals

    WASHINGTON, April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, several animal protection
 organizations, conservation groups, and scientists filed a lawsuit challenging
 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) granting of import permits for
 imperiled argali sheep killed by trophy hunters, and its failure to issue a
 timely final rule listing the argali as an endangered species throughout its
 range in Asia. The plaintiffs include The Fund for Animals, Animal Legal
 Defense Fund, The Humane Society of the United States, Earth Island Institute,
 Argali Wildlife Research Center in Mongolia, former FWS scientist Ron Nowak,
 and Mongolian scientists Sukh Amgalanbaatar and Zundui Namshir.
     The argali sheep is the largest species of wild sheep in the world,
 weighing 210-310 pounds, with massive spiral horns up to 75 inches long and 20
 inches in circumference. The species has experienced a significant decline in
 habitat and range, due to factors including domestic livestock using habitat
 that was formerly used by the argali. Among the threats that the argali face
 is hunting by foreign trophy hunters, including U.S. citizens, who take dead
 argali trophies back with them to their home countries. Hunters are not
 permitted to bring these trophies into the U.S. without import permits issued
 by the FWS. The lawsuit alleges that the permits are being issued illegally in
 violation of the Endangered Species Act and other rules specific to the
 argali.
     In 1976, in response to a petition filed by The Fund for Animals, the FWS
 listed a subspecies of the argali sheep, but not the entire species, as
 endangered. In 1992, however, given the continuing decline of the species, the
 FWS listed the entire species as endangered throughout most of its range, but
 only as threatened in the countries of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan,
 issuing a special rule setting forth stringent conditions that would have to
 be met before import of argali trophies from those countries would be allowed.
 In 1993, the FWS proposed changing the listing from threatened to endangered
 because of increased concern for the survival of the species. Many years
 later, the proposed rule is still outstanding. Remarkably, despite the
 prohibition on importation, in the past five years the FWS has granted more
 than 550 permits for the importation of Argali trophies into the U.S., and
 more than 100 issued permits are still valid.
     According to Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for
 Animals, "It is unconscionable that hundreds of animals in this imperiled
 species have been killed simply so wealthy American trophy hunters can add
 more heads to their collections. The Fish and Wildlife Service has acted
 illegally and irresponsibly by granting hundreds of import permits, by not
 soliciting or considering public comment, and by leaving this proposed rule in
 limbo while the argali population continues to decline."
     Added Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of The Humane Society of the
 United States, "The Fish and Wildlife Service is not protecting argali sheep
 from wealthy trophy hunters, even though the agency all but recognizes that
 the species is endangered with extinction. Because trophy hunters have almost
 an obsessive fascination with killing these majestic animals, argali sheep are
 at acute risk and must be fully protected."
     A copy of the 23-page lawsuit filed today is available by calling
 301-585-2591, ext. 216.
 
 

SOURCE The Fund for Animals
    WASHINGTON, April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, several animal protection
 organizations, conservation groups, and scientists filed a lawsuit challenging
 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) granting of import permits for
 imperiled argali sheep killed by trophy hunters, and its failure to issue a
 timely final rule listing the argali as an endangered species throughout its
 range in Asia. The plaintiffs include The Fund for Animals, Animal Legal
 Defense Fund, The Humane Society of the United States, Earth Island Institute,
 Argali Wildlife Research Center in Mongolia, former FWS scientist Ron Nowak,
 and Mongolian scientists Sukh Amgalanbaatar and Zundui Namshir.
     The argali sheep is the largest species of wild sheep in the world,
 weighing 210-310 pounds, with massive spiral horns up to 75 inches long and 20
 inches in circumference. The species has experienced a significant decline in
 habitat and range, due to factors including domestic livestock using habitat
 that was formerly used by the argali. Among the threats that the argali face
 is hunting by foreign trophy hunters, including U.S. citizens, who take dead
 argali trophies back with them to their home countries. Hunters are not
 permitted to bring these trophies into the U.S. without import permits issued
 by the FWS. The lawsuit alleges that the permits are being issued illegally in
 violation of the Endangered Species Act and other rules specific to the
 argali.
     In 1976, in response to a petition filed by The Fund for Animals, the FWS
 listed a subspecies of the argali sheep, but not the entire species, as
 endangered. In 1992, however, given the continuing decline of the species, the
 FWS listed the entire species as endangered throughout most of its range, but
 only as threatened in the countries of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan,
 issuing a special rule setting forth stringent conditions that would have to
 be met before import of argali trophies from those countries would be allowed.
 In 1993, the FWS proposed changing the listing from threatened to endangered
 because of increased concern for the survival of the species. Many years
 later, the proposed rule is still outstanding. Remarkably, despite the
 prohibition on importation, in the past five years the FWS has granted more
 than 550 permits for the importation of Argali trophies into the U.S., and
 more than 100 issued permits are still valid.
     According to Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for
 Animals, "It is unconscionable that hundreds of animals in this imperiled
 species have been killed simply so wealthy American trophy hunters can add
 more heads to their collections. The Fish and Wildlife Service has acted
 illegally and irresponsibly by granting hundreds of import permits, by not
 soliciting or considering public comment, and by leaving this proposed rule in
 limbo while the argali population continues to decline."
     Added Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of The Humane Society of the
 United States, "The Fish and Wildlife Service is not protecting argali sheep
 from wealthy trophy hunters, even though the agency all but recognizes that
 the species is endangered with extinction. Because trophy hunters have almost
 an obsessive fascination with killing these majestic animals, argali sheep are
 at acute risk and must be fully protected."
     A copy of the 23-page lawsuit filed today is available by calling
 301-585-2591, ext. 216.
 
 SOURCE  The Fund for Animals