Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 3, 2021


Sarah Uhlemann, (206) 327-2344,

Biden Administration Urged to Reverse Trump Failures on Foreign Wildlife Protections

13 Birds, 5 Butterflies, Clam Awaiting Urgently Needed Safeguards

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice today urging the Biden administration to protect 19 imperiled species found outside U.S. borders. The animals include a beautiful Brazilian butterfly and a woodpecker threatened by U.S. jungle warfare training activities in Okinawa.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acknowledged that all 19 species warrant Endangered Species Act safeguards, but the Trump administration deemed protections “precluded” by other work. That other work included listing only eight foreign species throughout the Trump administration’s four-year tenure. Yet the 19 species and many other foreign species are awaiting decisions from the Service.

Among the 19 animals, 13 birds await protection; some have been on the Service’s “candidate” wait-list for almost 35 years. The birds include Japan’s Okinawa woodpecker, the black-backed tanager of Brazil and the yellow-browed toucanet of Peru. Five butterflies, including Brazil’s Fluminense swallowtail, and the Colorado Delta clam from Mexico are also wait-listed.

“The Biden administration’s bold early actions are already demonstrating a commitment to the environment, so we’re hoping these imperiled animals get prompt consideration,” said Sarah Uhlemann, International Program director and an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “As we suffer a heart-breaking extinction crisis, U.S. leadership can help save wildlife around the world. The Biden administration can reverse the Trump administration’s dismal record and protect these and other deserving creatures now, before it’s too late.”

Scientists predict the world will lose a million species in coming decades without urgent and transformative action to combat habitat loss, over-exploitation and other threats. There are more than 600 foreign species covered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Act protects endangered species by banning their import and sale, increasing awareness and sometimes providing financial assistance.

Species Backgrounds

Okinawa woodpecker: Found only on the island of Okinawa in Japan, this woodpecker is one of the world’s rarest birds, with an estimated population of only 50-249 mature individuals. The species relies on old-growth forests, including forests located within the U.S. Marine Corps’ Jungle Warfare Training Center on Okinawa. Scientists requested the Okinawa woodpecker’s protection in 1980, and the Service deemed listing “warranted” in 1984. Yet the woodpecker has lingered on the “warranted but precluded” list for almost 35 years.

Fluminense swallowtail: This beautiful butterfly has a tiny range near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Its coastal swamp habitat is threatened by the draining of swamps for development and agricultural conversion. The species has also been found in the insect curio trade, a market that is notoriously hard to monitor. The Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition to list the swallowtail in 1994 but has not yet proposed protections.

Colorado Delta clam: Once abundant in the Colorado River estuary in Mexico’s Gulf of California, the Colorado Delta clam has undergone massive declines because of drastically reduced Colorado River flows from the United States. It has been awaiting protection since 2013.

Black-backed tanager: This colorful bird with a turquoise breast and reddish head inhabits Brazil. Its rapid decline is likely due to habitat loss and fragmentation. It has also been found in the illegal cage-bird trade. The black-backed tanager has been wait-listed for protection since 1994.

Kaiser-i-Hind swallowtail: Inhabiting high-altitude Himalayan regions of Bhutan, China and India as well as Vietnam and Thailand, this rare butterfly is orange and iridescent green. It suffers from habitat destruction and is collected for the commercial trade, where it is highly valued. The Kaiser-i-Hind swallowtail has been on the candidate wait-list since 1994.

Fluminense swallowtail by Joe Schelling. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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