Austin, TX, United States (AHN Sports) – After a federal judge rejected a last-minute appeal by ranchers for an injunction early this week, hunters in Texas will no longer be able to shoot down three endangered species of antelopes without a federal permit.
Effective Wednesday, April 4, 2012, the scimitar-horned oryx and two-related African antelope — the dama gazelle and the addax — will be fully covered by the federal Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. government will stop allowing anyone to hunt these exotic antelopes native to Africa without a federal permit.
The new measure puts an end to years of sport hunting on Texas’s exotic game ranches.
The hunting ban, which is expected to radically change exotic game hunting in the state, was greeted by animal-rights groups and people who abhor such “canned hunts”, but it also upset the affected ranchers whose efforts have led to rise in the numbers of these animals, which are either extinct or nearing it in their natural habitat, in the world.
The scimitar oryx, a species of the oryx, was named so referring its magnificent horns which resembles a scimitar. It is said to have given birth to the myth of the unicorn.
Its existence was indicated on an inscription on the Egyptian tomb of Sabu of Sakkarah nearly 23 centuries ago.
The scimitar oryx once inhabited the whole of North Africa and roamed its plains in vast herds, but was declared extinct in the wild in 2000.
These creatures have thrived in Texas, which is the only place in the world that has the largest population of these three endangered antelopes.
According to the Texas-based Exotic Wildlife Association, the scimitar-horned oryx’s numbers in a captive breeding program in Texas grew from 32 to more than 11,000 today. The dama gazelle, the rarest of these three, numbered only nine in 1979 but there are more than 800 today.
Meanwhile, there were only two addax known to exist in Texas in 1971, but there are more than 5,000 of them today.
In 2005, the three creatures were listed on the Endangered Species Act, but they were exempt from the no-hunting rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That exemption, however, essentially maintained the status quo, pertaining to the “taking” – or hunting – and transportation of the said animals.
The federal exemption was lifted Wednesday after it was successfully challenged by Friends of Animals, a Connecticut-based animal-rights organization adamantly opposed to hunting. The group also helped have the three species listed on the Endangered Species Act in 2005.
According to the impacted ranchers, the measure which requires them to follow a federal permitting process for hunting the said animals, is counterproductive and could even result in the extinction of the three species.
It would translate to a loss of the economic incentive to maintain the herds and whatever gains have been made in returning them from the brink.
To some, it is perceived as government intrusion into private property. The wariness also extends to possibility of not meeting the requirements for the permits.
The disappearance of the exemption will also harm the creatures’ genetic diversity, said the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which according to J. David Bamberger, one of many affected Hill County ranchers, started the initial orxy breeding program.
Bamberger, a celebrated Texas conservationist who pioneered the growth of the Texas scimitar-horned oryx herd in the late 1970s on his Hill Country ranch, opened his preserve in 1979 with about 30 scimitar-horned oryxes.