Hunters, breeders, and attractions like zoos, circuses, and theme parks have been able to get around federal restrictions on the import of endangered species by making donations to conservation charities, Reuters reports.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows the import, export, or sale of such animals if the transaction can be shown to "enhance the survival" of the threatened species. Of the 1,375 such permits granted in the last five years, the test was met in most cases via charitable gifts, usually of a few thousand dollars.
The practice has been decried by animal-welfare groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which termed it "pay to play." Last week U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, a member of the House committees on oversight and foreign affairs, asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to cease granting permits on the basis of donations.