Legal Mechanisms for Protection of Wild Animals and Plants

Legal Mechanisms for Protection of Wild Animals and Plants

Wildlife laws use a very wide range of legal mechanisms to protect wild species of organisms and ecosystems. These range from relatively straightforward bans on the killing of particular species to the transfer of knowledge about conservation from one country to another. This chapter discusses the range of legal mechanisms used to protect and conserve species of wild animals and plants.

The Species Approach wildlife Conservation


Creating New Organizations to Protect Specific Taxa

Some legislation specifically focuses on the conservation of single species or other particular taxa by establishing new organizations. Commercial whaling decimated global whale populations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Figure 6.1). In the mid-twentieth century, the InternationalWhaling Commission was established to regulate the exploitation of whales.

Whitby whalebone arch: a symbol of the whaling industry that thrived in Whitby and other English ports in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Fifty-five whaling ships were based in Whitby between 1753 and 1833. During this period they brought back 2 761 whales and over 25 000 seals.

In 2006 the government of India established the National Tiger Conservation Authority with the purpose of providing an overarching supervisory role in relation to tiger conservation.

These functions include, inter alia, the monitoring of populations of tigers and their prey, the approval of the Tiger Conservation Plan preventing the unsustainable use of land in tiger reserves, laying down standards for tourism activities and facilitating and supporting the management of tiger reserves.

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Listing Protected and Dangerous Species – Schedules, Appendices, and Annexes Legal Mechanisms for Protection of Wild Animals and Plants

Some laws cover single species (e.g. the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears 1973) or a relatively small group of closely related species (e.g. the Deer Act 1991 in England and Wales; the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 in the United States).

In the United States, wild horses and burros are given a special status under the law because of their historical importance. The Wild Free-roaming horses and BurrosAct of 1971 declare that these animals are ‘living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.

One international agreement protects a single herd of caribou (Rangifer tarandus). Other laws are more complex and contain lists of species that may be afforded different levels of protection. Such laws are to be found at national, European Union and international levels.

When long lists of species or habitats are to be protected by legislation it is not practical to include these lists in the main body of the text. They may need to be amended from time to time and so, more often than not, they are to be found at the end of the document in what may be called a schedule, an appendix or an annex. Such listing may be a prerequisite to receiving a range of protections, and sp cities not so listed may be deprived of these protections.

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 applies in Great Britain and regulates the keeping of dangerous species by members of the public in private collections. The Act does not directly define a ‘dangerous wild animal’. Instead, it lists those taxa to which the legislation applies.

In Burma (Myanmar) the Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law 1994 established three categories of protected species of wild animals.

In the United States, a List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife appears in 50 CFR §17.11(h) in regulations authorized under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The common names of animals and plants vary within and between countries and may change from time to time. For this reason, it is important that legislation identifies and lists organisms by their scientific names (see Section 5.2). This is specifically stated in the UnitedStates in relation to the species protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Case law – Listing of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) under the Endangered Species Act.Legal Mechanisms for Protection of Wild Animals and Plants

The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) is a species that is native to the north-west United States. By the early 1980s, there was clear evidence that this owl was endangered in the United States, but the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) refused to list the species under the Endangered Species Act because of concerns about the effect on the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. Thirty organizations petitioned the USFWS to list the owl. In 1987 the petitions were denied. In 1988 the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund filed a suit in the federal district court in Seattle. They claimed that the decision not to list was based on economic, not scientific evidence. The court ordered the USFWS to list the owl (Northern Spotted Owl v. Hodel (1988)).

European protected species

Some species of animals and plants are considered to require special protection within the European Union and are listed as European Protected Species by the EU Habitats Directive in Annex IV: Animal and Plant Species of Community Interest in Need of Strict Protection (Table 6.3), for example, the European wildcat (Felis silvestris).

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