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Petition to Stop All Wildlife Trade Would Harm Wildlife and Communities From Alaska to Zimbabwe

SCI strongly opposes a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council that requests that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ban the import, export, and interstate transport of all wild mammals and birds and institute a cumbersome import/export tracking system.  These groups seek to exploit the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic to achieve their personal goal of shutting down the legal, regulated international trade in wildlife—without scientific support, and at the expense of the countries and communities who rely on this trade. 

The petitioners ask the Service to ban all imports and interstate transport of mammals and birds, both alive and dead.  This is a monumental ask.  It would stop everything from the import of live parakeets, leather goods, or hunting trophies, to the interstate travel of live animals, moose antlers, and game meat sustainably harvested in the United States.  The economic impact of the requested action would be felt from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

The petition relies on the alleged origin of the Covid-19 pandemic in a wildlife “wet” market to justify an across-the-board ban on the import or export of mammals and birds.  While SCI supports responsible controls on live wildlife trade to ensure human safety and the welfare of the animals themselves, the petition improperly seeks to take advantage of the global pandemic to completely ban legal, regulated trade in allmammals and birds, both alive and dead.  The petition relies on zero data to support its proposed blanket ban, especially with respect to imports of wildlife products.  It disregards the fact that the products of already-harvested wildlife are subject to strict controls and inspections before they ever enter international trade.  

SCI also opposes the petitioned-for action because it would negatively impact hunters and range countries who rely on legal, regulated hunting to fund and sustain national conservation programs.  Hunted species are already highly regulated, with safeguards and laws in place to ensure ethical and healthy practices for both the animals and hunters.  These controls are monitored and administered by local, state, or national wildlife authorities.  For hunting trophies in particular, most exports are accompanied by veterinary inspection certificates.  For species of conservation concern, import or export permits ensure the trade is legal and sustainable.

The petition ignores the efforts already being made to protect the health and safety of people and wildlife, while recognizing the economically crucial role of the sustainable use of wildlife.  Based on the economic and conservation significance of this trade, similar proposed bans have been strongly criticized by expertsand community leaders.

Some of the largest threats to wildlife and biodiversity are habitat destruction and illegal poaching.  For rural communities who live alongside wildlife and also rely on scarce natural resources, there must be an incentive to protect habitat and biodiversity, which often comes at great cost to their own livelihoods.  Hunting and the sustainable use of wildlife resources create massive revenue and livelihood incentives that encourage the protection of habitat and reduce illegal poaching or retaliatory killing.  Adoption of this petition would be devastating for both humans and wildlife, because it would effectively erase those incentives by blocking off one of the world’s largest import markets.  It would also destroy the sustainable use of wildlife within the U.S., such as the internationally recognized conservation and trade programs that have brought species back from the brink of extinction.  

Fortunately, the petitioned-for action is not legally supported by the Lacey Act or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the authorities on which the petitioners rely.  But despite the lack of legal or scientific support, the petitioners and similar organizations who value their ideology over the well-being of wildlife and people, will undoubtedly seek to obtain greater restrictions on legal, regulated wildlife trade.  SCI will continue to fight against this petition and any similar attacks on sustainable-use conservation.

SCI needs your help to defeat this dangerous attack on our community and stand for the rights of hunters. Sign our petition TODAY!

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