By any measure, those gains have been impressive. In 1979, according to the Texas-based Exotic Wildlife Association, there were 32 scimitar-horned oryx in a captive breeding program in Texas; today there are more than 11,000. Only two addax were known to exist in the state in 1971; today there are more than 5,000. And the number of dama gazelle has increased from nine individuals in 1979 to more than 800 today.
This was accomplished because an exemption from the Endangered Species Act allowed reserves to offer hunting packages so that sportsmen could hunt the animals. This gave reserves a profit opportunity related to conserving the animals. But after protracted court battles, this exemption was drastically curtailed in 2012.
Without the unfettered ability to hunt, breed and trade these animals, ranchers say they will lose the economic incentive to maintain the herds, and whatever gains have been made in restoring their numbers will be lost.
The prospect of the implementation of the new rules led ranchers to escalate hunts before the market evaporated. Fortunately, clearer heads have prevailed and the exemption has been reinstated. Poachers have an incentive to kill off an entire herd because they have no claim to the offspring the herd produces next year. In contrast, no rancher kills off a herd precisely because it is even more valuable next year.
Hat tip: Richard Carroll