Texas isn’t as well-known for its population of wild African game as it is for its longhorn cattle, but believe it or not, the Lone Star State hosts a diverse collection animals from Africa, Asia and Europe. And the kicker? For an understandably hefty price tag, you can hunt some of the rarest animals in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some animal rights activists have a problem with this.
On Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes, CBS reporter Lara Logan took a look at the boom in non-native species deep in the heart of Texas, a trend that began over half a century ago when zoos dumped their surplus animals into the Texas countryside. As it turns out, ranchers took a liking to seeing the animals on their properties and began cultivating them. The movement has paid dividends, as three species of African antelope have been brought back from the brink of extinction, including the scimitar-horned oryx, which has been classified as Extinct in the Wild in its native habitat.
The animal’s rarity drew trophy hunters to Texas, driving up the oryx’s value and providing ranchers with the money needed to keep the animals alive — in the scimitar-horned oryx’s case, the price is a whopping $10,000 per tag. The most expensive is the cape buffalo at $50,000. What’s more, ranchers make sure no more than 10 percent of the herd is killed per year. According to the report, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the hunts, saying “hunting…provides an economic incentive for…ranchers to continue to breed these species,” and that “hunting…reduces the threat of the species’ extinction.”
Despite the ranches’ contributions to the preservation of the scimitar-horned oryx and other endangered species, the movement has drawn the ire of animal rights activists like Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. Logan asked if the oryx exists in Texas to be hunted, if she would rather see it exist at all. Feral’s response? “Not in Texas, no.”
Conservationalist Chris Condy told 60 Minutes that the ranchers’ movement was no doubt saving the scimitar-horned oryx, citing a population somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 animals, but Feral’s position has nevertheless gained legal traction, and in the next few weeks, the U.S. government will make it illegal to hunt the scimitar-horned oryx and two other non-native species without a federal permit — which is nearly impossible to obtain — reneging its earlier position that the animals were considered private property.
No doubt, Condy said, this will devalue the oryx, and in a matter of years, it will be extinct in Texas, too.
It’s a sad state of affairs, not only because this game animal is once again facing extinction, but because the government is turning a blind eye to facts. Instead of looking at actual, concrete numbers — which had apparently been sufficient for the U.S. government for years — Washington has now chosen to listen to the ramblings of an activist with little bearing on the situation other than her own pathos-driven babble.
After all, if the scimitar-horned oryx is thriving in a controlled environment without harming the local ecosystem, who’s to say it belongs only in Africa, where poaching could very well wipe the species out — again? Private business should be allowed to function as long as there is demand, but unfortunately Feral doesn’t see it this way. Soon she may get her wish to see it removed from Texas — and the planet.