Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Endangered Species and Illegal Imports of Animal Trophies, Polar Bars: plus, Conservation & Environmental Protection in Germany

Erika Bolstad at the McClatchy Newspapers writes in Hunters' polar-bear trophies stuck in legal limbo about the effect of the Endangered Species Act on the sport hunting of polar bears in the northern regions of the world and the illegality of importing polar bear trophies into the USA, even if hunted prior to the Act:
"The Endangered Species Act prohibits importing animals that are listed as endangered or threatened. As a result, sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada can't be imported, the government argues, even if they were hunted before the bears were considered threatened."
It is estimated that there are about 25,000 polar bears left in a range across Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway and Alaska, where local provinces also have their own rules about permissible hunting ("harvest rules"). For example, even U.S. law still permits Alaska Natives to shoot about three dozen polar bears each year. According to Bolstad, quoting polar bear expert Geoff York, The World Wildlife Fund, for example, does not oppose "sustainable harvests when they benefit local economies".

The tradition of hunting game for survival is as surely as old as the history of mankind so that it is difficult to oppose polar bear sport hunting on "strictly moral" grounds. Man's killing of animals for his own purposes is widespread on our planet. As one commenter to the article noted in replying to sport hunting critics:

"I don't know where you think your leather shoes, belts and double cheeseburgers come from...."

The opponents of course argue understandably that killing for sport rather than necessity are two horses of a different color, but there is a fine line there somewhere. That line raises the question of how many polar bears any geographic area can tolerate before they become dangerous or economically harmful and how much "sustainable harvesting" is required to keep animal populations healthy, regardless of the motivations of the individual hunters.

Here in Germany, for example, annual hunts of wild boar and deer and other animals are necessary in order to reduce overpopulation, which if uncontrolled results, for example, in wild boars literally invading human-inhabited locations and leaving a trail of destruction.

Moreover, wild boar and deer on German roads contribute heavily to thousands of accidents each year, with many human injuries, including fatalities, which has led many autobahns to be "fenced off" and special overpasses just for animals to be constructed at great cost in order not to bar animals from their natural territory. See e.g. Verkehrsrundschau.de.

The "sustainable harvest" of animals by hunting is in fact necessary and regularly practiced in Germany and we take the following figures from the Deutsche Jagd Zeitung djz.de for the year 2007/2008 as an example: harvested were 447,000 boar, 1 million deer (yes, Germany has many deer and forests), 525,00 rabbits, 269,000 wild hares, 543,000 foxes, 29,000 racoons, and 26,700 racoon dogs. It is always amazing to this observer that a country so thickly populated by humanity as Germany still has such a massive population of wildlife. In this connection, the forestry profession is quite important and the local forester is a respected person.

Living in an intelligent harmony with plants and wildlife is essential, as shown above. In Germany the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN) publishes national Red Lists of endangered species which are supplanted by local state published lists as well.

The German protection of nature is detailed in English at WISIA Online, which points to the German Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz, BNatSchG) and the German Federal Ordinance on the Conservation of Species ((Verordnung zum Schutz wild lebender Tier- und Pflanzenarten, Bundesartenschutzverordnung, BArtSchV), as well as to the Federal Hunting Act (Bundesjagdgesetz, BJagdG) and the Federal Game Conservation Ordinance (Bundeswildschutzverordnung, BWildSchV).

Article 1 of the Bundesartenschutzverordnung (Bundesartenschutzverordnung - BArtSchV) provides a list of protected species, as these are protected in Germany by a variety of measures (e.g. "hunting bans, raptor nest surveillance, bat nesting boxes, amphibian tunnels, etc." ).

There are special restrictions imposed via the Foreign Trade Act (Außenwirtschaftsgesetz, AWG) the export list (Ausfuhrliste) and import list (Einfuhrliste) in the broader sense that protected animals and plants and their products can not be imported or exported pursuant to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Washington Convention ()).

Protected animals can not be sold in Germany, also not on websites such as eBay, and violators can be imprisoned.

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