Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bobcats At Risk: U.S. plans to propose removal of CITES protection

According to the Humane Society International, the bobcat of North America, currently protected by its Appendix II listing under CITES (the international organization that regulates trade in endangered species), is at risk of losing that protected status. And the reason is not rooted in a controversy over its role as a predator, like that being experienced by the gray wolf. Instead, it has to due with a potential demand for fur and how fulfilling that demand can severely impact similar but more critically endangered species of wild cats.

At the behest of fur traders, the United States has requested in the past, albeit unsuccessfully, that the bobcat be removed from CITES protection. Doing so would then enable fur traders to trap and kill more than the 50,000 bobcats that are currently taken under the Appendix II listing. The bobcat's fur is apparently identical to the fur of other cats in the lynx family, like the Iberian lynx - of which there are reported to be only 150 left in the wild.

At first blush, flooding the market with bobcat fur would conceivably protect the more endangered species by satisfying international demand. But according to the Humane Society International, it would have an opposite effect; emboldening illegal trappers and smugglers to go after dwindling stocks of endangered cats since it would now be easier to pass them off in a more robust fur market.

Apparently, the U.S. intends to make the same request at the upcoming March CITES meeting that it has unsuccessfully made in the past. The Human Society International has a form that you can fill out to send a message to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking that the proposal be withdrawn. Click here to add your voice.

Here is a sensible case of restricting trade in one species so as to protect more critically endangered species - an issue not rooted in any controversial imbalance in the predator-prey relationship, or loss of cattle or other livestock destined for human use. Just a need to control those wanting to make more profit on bobcat fur simply because the resource is there for the taking. At least for now.

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