DSC and DSC Foundation (DSCF) have joined a long list of conservation and hunting groups in submitting a united and official comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) status review of the African leopard. Conservation Force, a leading non-profit conservation organization, submitted the comment on behalf of DSC, DSCF, Houston Safari Club, African Professional Hunters Association, International Professional Hunters Association, Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, Shikar Safari Club International and Shikar Safari Club International Foundation.
The information contained within the official comment demonstrates that the African leopard (Panthera pardus) should not be up-listed to “endangered” as defined in the ESA in countries where it is currently listed as “threatened. The comment also contends that a “threatened” listing is not warranted in the South African Development Community countries, which form a distinct population segment and the most abundant leopard population in the world.
“As leaders in the conservation arena, we have put forth relevant information and data for the Service to determine the future of the African leopard and its associated hunting,” said DSC Executive Director Ben Carter. “The best information available shows that none of the listing factors are satisfied and the Service should find that an up-listing is not warranted. As hunters and conservationists, it’s our duty to provide this crucial information and hope the Service remains indifferent to the vitriolic rhetoric from anti-hunting groups who only want to see our proud heritage outlawed.”
The comment resulted from the Service receiving a petition from an anti-hunting group to up-list the leopard from “threatened” to “endangered” in certain countries. The Service began a 90-day, fact-finding period, in which they determined that “the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that reclassifying the leopard (Panthera pardus) as endangered throughout its range may be warranted.” The Service opened up a comment period to collect information relevant to determining if the species falls within the definition of the ESA.
The information contained in the group’s official comment shows that the leopard’s habitat is generally stable or increasing in the relevant countries, and that legal utilization of the leopard is sustainable and regulated, and well under the quotas set forth by CITES. The comment also highlights the lack of disease and predation; the existing regulatory mechanisms are more than adequate to protect the leopard and secure its survival; and no other natural or man-made factor poses a risk of endangerment to the species.
“The evidence is clear that none of the factors support or warrant reclassification of the African leopard,” said DSCF President Richard Cheatham. “The conclusions stated in the comment are founded in reason and fact, and reason and fact – rather than emotion, hyperbole and speculation – must govern the debate and must dictate the outcome. DSC Foundation urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make a 12-month finding that up-listing of the African leopard is unwarranted.”