UPDATE: March 19, 2014 – The 2005 regulation that authorizes certain otherwise prohibited activities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with U.S. captive-bred animals and sport-hunted trophies of the scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle has been reinstated. Individuals who wish to take part in otherwise prohibited activities, including interstate or foreign commerce, import, export, culling or other forms of take, that meet the criteria for enhancement of these species under the ESA may do so without obtaining a permit. Alternatively, individuals could request authorization under the Captive-bred Wildlife Registration and Take permitting process. Individuals who do not meet the criteria outlined in this final rule will need to apply for an individual ESA permit. Click here to read the final rule.



Dama gazelles
Credit: Susan E. Adams CC BY-SA 2.0

On September 2, 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) added three African antelope species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) — the scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelle. At the same time, the Service published a regulation providing an exclusion from the requirement to obtain a permit or other authorization for carrying out certain otherwise prohibited activities with these three species, such as hunting on a private ranch or game operation.

The exclusion was challenged in Federal District Court and in 2009, the court remanded the regulation back to the Service, directing the agency to provide opportunities for the public to review and comment when authorizing otherwise prohibited activities — interstate or foreign commerce, import or re-import, export or re-export, or take (other than normal husbandry, breeding, and non-injurious veterinary procedures) — with these listed species, consistent with the ESA.

In 2011, in response to the court ruling, the Service issued a final rule, removing the exclusion of these species to certain ESA regulations. The removal of this exclusion required anyone in the United States who possessed any of these three antelope species to obtain authorization from the Service if they wished to carry out otherwise prohibited activities.

The rule was changed yet again in 2014 in response to a Congressional directive. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which was enacted into law on January 17, 2014, contained a provision that required the Service to reinstate the 2005 regulation within 60 days of the legislation’s enactment. On March 19, 2014, the Service published a final rule, effective immediately, which excludes U.S. captive-bred animals and sport-hunted trophies of the scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle from permitting requirements as long as certain conditions are met. The reinstated regulations, however, do not preclude the option of obtaining authorization under the Captive-bred Wildlife (CBW) Registration to carry out activities with the three antelope, nor does it restrict individuals from applying for and obtaining permits under the ESA to take animals as part of a management program to ensure viable breeding populations. Individuals or operations that are currently registered under the CBW program for these three species must make the decision to either maintain the registration or withdraw from the program.


Updated Permitting Options

As of March 19, 2014, anyone who wishes to engage in otherwise prohibited activities that are associated with the management of scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelle may do so without registering under the CBW program or obtaining an ESA permit, so long as management contributes to increasing or sustaining captive numbers or to potential reintroduction to range countries.

If you are considering participating in one of these otherwise prohibited activities, please be aware that:

  • This rule does not authorize any activity for any specimen of the three species from the wild. 
  • This rule does not affect provisions relating to importation or possession and other acts with unlawfully taken wildlife.
  • This rule applies only to specimens that are captive-bred in the United States.

Scimitar-horned Oryx with calf
Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

Anyone who wishes to engage in any act that is prohibited under the ESA with a specimen that has not been captive-bred in the United States or from a facility that does not meet the criteria of this rule will continue to need to obtain an individual permit under the ESA, which are decided on a case-by-case basis and only after all required findings have been made. 

Likewise, anyone who wishes to register under the CBW program or obtain an ESA permit to engage in any act that would otherwise be covered under the reinstated regulations may do so.

For more information on permits related to captive-breeding, read the Captive-Bred Widlife Registration under the Endangered Species ActPDF Download fact sheet.

Each of the three antelope species are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This rule does not affect the CITES requirements for these species.  Therefore, any import into or export from the United States of specimens of these species would not be authorized until all CITES requirements have been met. For general information on CITES permit requirements, click here PDF Download.


Species Conservation Efforts

The scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), addax (Addax nasomaculatus), and dama gazelle (Gazella dama) all inhabit the sparse desert regions of Northern Africa where their numbers have declined rapidly in the last 50 years. The dama gazelle and addax are considered critically endangered, while free-ranging populations of the scimitar-horned oryx may no longer exist in the wild as it has not been seen in its natural habitat since the 1980s. However, these species, particularly the scimitar-horned oryx, breed well in captivity. There are thought to be thousands of these animals in zoos, on game ranches, and in other such facilities in the United States and elsewhere.

The Service recognizes the important contribution captive breeding has made to the continued survival of these species, which have been removed from (in the case of the oryx) or greatly reduced in numbers in the wild. Many game ranches within the United States have been breeding and maintaining these species on their properties and, as a result of strong management practices, have offered hunting of these species as a way to manage the size and health of their herds.