Accusing federal regulators of creating a problem where one doesn’t exist, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has joined State Attorney General Greg Abbott in opposing a U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulation that challenges the Texas exotic wildlife industry’s authority and management of three species of what federal authorities have determined to be endangered African antelope.

Nine Texas ranchers and the Ingram-based Exotic Wildlife Association filed a federal lawsuit in Washington in early March in an attempt to overturn a 2005 FWS regulation that placed the antelope on the endangered list, subjecting longtime Texas breeders to the civil and criminal provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act.

According to the lawsuit, the species include the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax, or "screwhorn antelope," and the dama gazelle. All three species were declared endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of dwindling populations in their native breeding grounds in Africa. As a result, FWS removed the antelope from classification as livestock to the endangered species list, but granted an exemption to Texas breeders because of a successful and documented history of success in increasing antelope populations over the last twenty years. But under terms of a recent administrative move, FWS may soon require private breeders to follow "cumbersome" permit procedures over the endangered status if the lawsuit fails.

Charly Seale, Executive Director of the Exotic Wildlife Association of Ingram, Texas, says state ranchers are actually the group responsible for the species' comeback from near-extinction over the last 20 years.

“This is the most successful conservation effort ever undertaken by game breeders and ranchers here in Texas,” Seale states in the lawsuit. “We have literally brought these animals back from the brink of extinction in their native Africa and are currently involved in a conservation project that will send Scimitar Horned Oryx and Addax back to their native land.”