The U.S. House and Senate considered and approved legislation to exempt from endangered species protections three antelope species nearly extinct in their native countries but thriving on ranches in Texas.
The exemptions would clear the way for ranchers to maintain their herds and to offer hunts for these game animals without government intervention.
Hunting revenue provides incentive for ranchers to ensure flourishing populations of exotic scimitar horned oryx, Dama gazelle and addax.
The antelope species are known in Texas as the “Three Amigos.”
On January 16, the U.S. Senate approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, which included a provision that requires the Secretary of the Interior to reestablish certain Endangered Species Act permitting exemptions for U.S. captive-bred scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the same omnibus legislation on January 15. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.
“This is exciting news in the name of wildlife conservation,” said Texas Wildlife Association President Greg Simons of San Angelo. “We’ve had a lot of feedback from our members in the last year or two about concerns with the permitting process, and we’ve worked collaboratively with other groups and individuals in an effort to address the situation. This change provides an incentive again for Texas landowners to raise these animals, to provide care from these animals, and to provide hunting programs that help capitalize their efforts.
“This is a great turn of events for the conservation of these species.”
The Three Amigos were exempt from 2005 until 2012, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-listed them under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, populations have fallen dramatically. The Exotic Wildlife Association estimates that scimitar horned oryx numbers in Texas are now at nearly half of their 2010 levels.
“It’s time for the federal government to step out of the way, because ESA status has been deadly for these species,” said Ben Carter, executive director for Dallas Safari Club. “An ESA exemption would give these species real value, and that, in turn, clears the way for their numbers to go back up.”