Activists: 'Pay to Play' Loophole Exploits Endangered Animals
Species can be traded if, in many cases, money is donated
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2016 6:56 PM CDT
A male African lion named DJ lies in the shade in the lion habitat at Zooisiana - Zoo of Acadiana in Broussard, La.,   (Paul Kieu/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

(Newser) – It's illegal to import animals as "trophies" to the United States if they're on the endangered species list—but hunters, circuses, zoos, breeders, and theme parks can obtain permits to import, export, or sell animals on the list as long as they show that by doing so, they'll "enhance the survival" of the species. How can they prove that? Records show that, often, they do so at least partially by contributing a few thousand bucks to charity, Reuters reports. For example, after a $5,000 pledge, the US Fish & Wildlife Service allowed 10 endangered South African penguins to be transferred to a Florida theme park. Animal rights activists aren't happy about the "charity loophole," and last week, a congressman asked the Fish & Wildlife Service to put an end to it.

"We call it ‘pay-to-play’ because that’s what exactly what’s going on, allowing these people to promise money in exchange for being able to harm endangered animals," says a lawyer for PETA, which last year sued the Fish & Wildlife Service over one of the permits it issued in 2014. Reuters reviewed a Fish & Wildlife Service document that notes, "Very few of the Endangered Species Act permits that we issue have direct benefits to the species in the wild. Most applicants provide an indirect benefit, such as monetary support, to meet the enhancement requirement." But a Fish & Wildlife official says charitable contributions aren't a requirement in order for a permit to be granted, and that many other factors are also considered. Click for Reuters' full piece.