Cathy Liss

President, Animal Welfare Institute

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and the protection of threatened and endangered species. AWI worked for the successful adoption the Endangered Species Act and sound regulations in support of it, and we continue our efforts to ensure sufficient funds for enforcement and the much needed listing of additional species. On March 26, 1973, the organization’s founder, Christine Stevens, testified before Congress in support of a robust Act, emphasizing that “to turn the tide of extinction, a substantial edifice of rational protection has to be built. Each building block must be solid and strong.”

The Act has been instrumental in saving animals—like red wolves—that teeter on the brink of oblivion because of human activities.

Today, one of many species in need of protection is the red wolf, which once roamed throughout the eastern and southcentral United States. By the early 20th century, intensive predator control programs, and the degradation and alteration of the species’ habitat, had greatly reduced red wolf numbers; in 1980, the species was declared extinct in the wild. Seven years later, an experimental population of red wolves—drawn from a remnant population captured in a desperate attempt to save the species—was reintroduced into eastern North Carolina under protection of the Endangered Species Act.

Without the Act, these shy, elusive animals would have disappeared from the face of the earth. Today, a hundred or so wild red wolves live in North Carolina—still the only place where they are found outside of captivity. While there are various threats to the reintroduced population, shooting is their leading cause of death; this is largely due to the similarity in appearance between red wolves and coyotes. It is through the power of the Endangered Species Act, however, that these threats can be addressed and effectively curtailed.

The Act has been instrumental in saving animals—like red wolves—that teeter on the brink of oblivion because of human activities. With prudent conservation efforts and solid protection under the Act, red wolves can make a comeback, and one day reclaim their rightful place in the ecosystem. AWI hopes that current and future generations will understand and appreciate this inspiring story of survival and recovery, and the critical role of the Endangered Species Act in keeping myriad species from going extinct.