In the beginning of this week’s reading, the law review article by Reed Noss points out that the “fundamental value assumption” underlying legislation such as the Endangered Species Act is that “biodiversity is good and ought to be preserved.” Historically, we see the concept of wild animals as “belonging to all the citizens of the state” in cases like Geer v. Connecticut and Pierson v. Post. Unfortunately, the ancient corollary to this principle has been that pursuit and capture can vest ownership. In our more recent past, there has been a trend towards recognizing the value of protecting biodiversity. Despite this, the U.S. has often struggled to protect species that have been driven to “endangered” status – our cases deal with the Arroyo Southwestern Toad and the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving fly, among others.
Today, Vietnamese officials and representatives from the WWF announced that the last Javan Rhinoceros living in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park had been killed by poachers for its horn. The Javan Rhinoceros is one of the world’s most endangered species – only 40 to 60 known members of the species remain on the planet. The extermination of the rhinos has been exacerbated by the fact that many cultures believe rhinoceros horn can cure an array of diseases. The prospect of selling crushed rhino horn on the black market is appealing because the average Vietnamese farmer earns the equivalent of only $7.50 USD a day, while just seven ounces of horn could sell for as much as $2,150.
It’s an interesting thing to keep in perspective – land developers in the U.S. challenged the protection of a toad. In Vietnam, people are driving animals to extinction as a way to try to make a living.