By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
The exploitation and abuse of big cats as props for paid public interactions at roadside attractions will soon be a thing of the past. As we recently shared, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, something we’ve been working on for over a decade, passed the U.S. Senate and will soon become law. It’s the beginning of the end of the cringeworthy era in which breeding big cats for cub petting (a la Tiger King) was all too common.
We’ve fought for wild animals kept in captivity for years. And we’re not alone: More and more communities are taking action to do right by animals. This year, we celebrated three cities in the U.S. (Charlotte, North Carolina; Ulysses, New York; and Northampton, Massachusetts) banning the use of wild animals in traveling shows, bringing the nationwide total to 173 localities in 37 states.
In the U.S. and around the globe, wild animals face so many threats beyond being used in cruel roadside attractions. Take sharks, whose populations are plummeting largely because of the demand for shark fin soup: in another recent groundbreaking development from the U.S. Congress, we saw the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, a bill we’ve been championing for years, finally pass, along with the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act, which strengthens the U.S. government’s capacity to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
We’re utterly committed to doing what’s right for wildlife, and we’re proud to share some of the progress we’ve made in 2022.
Fighting trophy hunting
It’s a heartbreaking fact that each year hundreds of thousands of wild animals are killed by trophy hunters purely for the “thrill” of the conquest and for a gruesome souvenir. Given all the threats facing wild animals today—including habitat loss, environmental devastation and climate change—it’s absurd that such a practice still exists. This year we gained real traction in our fight to end this practice and laid the groundwork for even more success in 2023:
- In a win for bears and their young cubs, the Washington State Fish & Wildlife Commission voted to stop the 2022 spring bear hunt, securing a final ban on spring bear hunting in Washington—a particularly cruel practice that can leave young cubs orphaned and targets bears at a time when they are vulnerable, having just emerged from hibernation.
- A federal judge ruled that wolves across most of the country, including the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, are once again afforded federal protection under the Endangered Species Act against hunting and other threats.
- National Geographic published an exposé of grisly wildlife killing contests, and shared what we’re doing to stop them. And just last week, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 6-1 to begin the rulemaking process to ban this shameful blood sport in the state.
- We won two important legal victories for Alaska’s wildlife. In April, a federal appeals court upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulation prohibiting the cruel practice of bear baiting in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Then in September, a federal district court ruled that the National Park Service violated the law when it adopted a regulation permitting cruel and unsporting hunting practices like killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens on national preserves in Alaska.
- Through a lawsuit against the South African government, Humane Society International won a temporary suspension of South Africa’s 2022 hunting and export quota allowances for African elephants, leopards and black rhinos. These quotas are expected to remain suspended through the duration of our lawsuit, which isn’t scheduled for action until August 2023.
- With our support, a coalition of countries agreed to reduce by 610 the global export quota allowance for leopards at the 19th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to amend a rule of the Endangered Species Act that would strengthen protections against overexploitation of African elephants. Considering that the U.S. is the largest hunting trophy importer of internationally regulated mammal species in the world, this could represent great progress in protecting elephants.
- The European Union is the world’s second largest importer of hunting trophies, so it’s a big deal that the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the cessation of hunting trophy imports to the EU.
Learning to solve conflicts humanely
Too often animal lives are lost due to unnecessary conflicts between people and wildlife. For decades, our Wild Neighbors team has been providing trainings about nonlethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts in all kinds of U.S. communities: urban, suburban and rural. By training community leaders and animal care and law enforcement agencies, we’re creating safer, more humane communities. To date, we have 567 Wild Neighbors pledges—including 134 pledges in 2022 alone. This year, our Wild Neighbors team trained more than 1,000 animal care and control professionals from nearly 700 different agencies and organizations.
In South Africa, our innovative program that prevents human-elephant conflict by delivering immunocontraceptives to elephants added three new reserves and 333 new breeding-age females, bringing the total to 46 reserves and 1,625 females. By ensuring that fenced elephant populations don’t grow too large to be supported by their habitat, the program offers a humane solution to unsustainable, localized elephant population growth that can lead to conflict.
None of this work would be possible without the steadfast support of people who care about protecting and preserving wild animals. Thank you for all you do to help, from donating to sharing these stories with your family and friends. Together, we will shape the kind of humane world wild animals deserve to call home.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.