Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two new bills that would fall under the umbrella of the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF). H.R. 411, which will establish the Great Cats and Rare Canids Conservation Fund, passed 290 to 118. H.R. 388 will establish the Crane Conservation Fund; it was approved with a vote of 288 to 166. Both bills authorize $5 million per year over a five year period, through 2014, to support conservation of species. H.R. 411 targets conservation efforts for any species of lion, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, clouded leopard, cheetah, Iberian lynx, Borneo bay cat, dhole, gray wolf, Ethiopian wolf, bush dog, African wild dog, maned wolf, or Darwin’s fox, that is native to Africa or Asia. H.R. 388 allocates funds for conservation of 15 species of cranes whose range is anywhere within Africa, Asia, Europe, or North America.
GOP.gov’s Legislative Digest indicates that some representatives were “concerned that animal protection efforts should be funded by private organizations, or by the government of the country wherein they take place, rather than taxpayers.” Zoos that support conservation efforts, like the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society, or the San Diego Zoo, were already excluded from receiving any of the government stimulus funds. Governments in Ethiopia, Cambodia, Borneo, and other parts of Asia and Africa, look to the United States as a leader with economic and political clout. Preservation of rare and endangered species is an ethical imperative, and something that the US should clearly lead in whenever possible. We’ve done a wonderfully efficient job of exterminating North American fauna. At this point, we should be doing our best to preserve whatever’s left, regardless of whose country it’s in.
The MSCF 2009 estimated expenses are around $4 million. By my calculations (please, correct me if I’m wrong, since math isn’t my strong suit), that amounts to around a tenth of a percent of the entire 2009 U.S. budget. The fund includes the African Elephant Conservation Act, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act, the Great Ape Conservation Act, and the Marine Turtle Conservation Act.