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WWF Chief Scientist Testifies on Behalf of Great Cats, Rare Canids and International Cranes

WASHINGTON- Dr. Eric Dinerstein, Chief Scientist and Vice-President for Conservation Science at World Wildlife Fund testified before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans of the House Committee on Natural Resources today on three bills - H.R. 1464, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Conservation Act of 2007, H.R. 1913, the Great Cats Conservation Act of 2007, and H.R. 1771, the Crane Conservation Act of 2007. Modeled on the highly successful conservation programs for elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes, sea turtles and neotropical migratory birds, the bills would establish conservation programs to protect some of the world's most endangered and iconic species.

Dinerstein's testimony pointed out that "the United States, primarily through programs administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, has played a critical role in the protection and conservation of these highly endangered species, and the legislation being considered here today furthers the U.S. leadership on these issues." Recognizing that these bills have bipartisan support, Dinerstein applauded the efforts of Chairwoman Bordallo and Ranking Member Brown for their longstanding leadership on conservation, as well as Mr. Udall, Mr. Tanner, Mr. Royce and Mr. Rogers for sponsoring H.R. 1464 and also for their continued leadership as co-chairs of the International Conservation Caucus. He also recognized Mr. Brown and Ms. Baldwin for their leadership on H.R. 1913 and H.R. 1771, respectively. He stated that "conservation of the world's endangered species is an issue that receives far too little attention among world leaders, and the fact that this Subcommittee is considering three bills at once is a cause for celebration."

Dinerstein supported H.R 1464, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Conservation Act, over the more limited coverage of the Great Cats Conservation Act, noting that while H.R. 1913 "offers much needed funding for conservation projects benefiting felid species, there is no reason to exclude canids given the urgent need for conservation projects benefiting those species as well."

Dinerstein continued: "Apex predators, like lions, wolves, snow leopards and other large canids and felids often exert what ecologists term "top-down" effects on the ecosystems of which they form an integral part. Their predation on other species, especially herbivores, but also smaller predators and omnivores (known as meso-predators), has a dramatic effect on the habitat, numbers, distributions, behavior, and ecological interactions of these species… Clearly, maintaining a healthy populations of large mammalian predators, including the 13 species in H.R. 1464 is imperative."

"Cranes, including those specifically identified in H.R. 1771, represent some of the most elegant species on the planet and also some of the biggest challenges for conservation. Cranes migrate long distances between their winter and summer ranges, and along the way face grave dangers from poachers, habitat loss resulting from the expansion of agriculture, and the spread of human infrastructure. The high number of cranes that are considered globally endangered are testament to this group of birds needing extensive help," Dinerstein noted. "WWF supports in broad principle H.R. 1771," but suggested changes regarding funding priorities and provisions that were inconsistent with existing multinational species conservation programs.

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Editor's Notes:

The entire transcript of Dinerstein's testimony can be found on the WWF website at www.worldwildlife.org.