On June 5, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) denied (pdf) two petitions to remove captive populations of the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), dama gazelle (Gazella dama), and addax (Addax nasomaculatus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In denying the petitions, the Service found it did not have the discretion to differentiate the listing status of animals in captivity from those in the wild.

The petitions, brought by Safari Club International and the Exotic Wildlife Association, sought to delist only captive populations of the three species. It is undisputed that wild populations require protection under the ESA. The petitioners requested a separate designation under the ESA for captive animals, as compared to members of the same taxonomic species in the wild. The Service found that, since the wild populations warrant listing under the ESA, the captive populations must have the same designation.

Delisting the species would allow the hunting and trade of the species in the United States. Petitioners assert that such activities further the conservation of the species because ranchers that breed and raise the herds for commercial purposes are less likely to do so if ESA protections remain in place. According to Mr. Craig Kauffman, president of Safari Club International, “[t]he [Service]’s decision is not a failure of the agency, but a failure of the antiquated law that needs to be modernized to deal with modern wildlife conservation needs in America.” The Service listed the three species as endangered in 2005.