Tiger Fangio at Al Ma'wa

Celebrating the Endangered Species Act on its 50th Anniversary

FOUR PAWS is a member of an unprecedented coalition of agencies, organizations, and nonprofits all coming together to honor the conservation legacy and success of this legislative milestone


The Endangered Species Act

Passed in December of 1973, The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a groundbreaking piece of federal legislation which establishes protection for fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered. 1 The act sets up a framework for cooperation, both amongst states and internationally, to prepare and implement plans for the recovery of listed species. A wildly popular bill amongst the general public, conservation groups, and politicians on both sides of the aisle, the bill passed by a vote of 92-0 in the Senate and 355-4 in the House. To this day, the act remains a shining example of what our country can accomplish when we come together to cooperate in the name of common, worthy goal.

The Endangered Species Act has led to the successful recovery of many prominent species, such as bald eagles, peregrine falcons, grizzly bears, manatees, the maguire primrose, and gray wolves. 2 Though many of these species still require protection in order to allow for their full recovery, the plans put in place as a result of the ESA brought them back from the brink of extinction. Currently, 2,368 species are listed worldwide, including 1,386 species native to the United States. 3

Winning ESA at 50 logo designed by Nicole Bennion

Winning ESA at 50 logo designed by artist Nicole Bennion

In 2023, we will celebrate 50 years since the Endangered Species Act went into effect. This 50th anniversary provides a unique opportunity celebrate conservation achievements, highlight conservation needs, and engage the public and decision-makers in events and conversations which encourage our continued involvement in the preservation of important species across the globe and remind us of our shared heritage of conservation in the United States.

FOUR PAWS is proud to be a member of the ESA@50 coalition and the Species Survival Network, and to work with groups like the Endangered Species Coalition, all of which strive to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. Throughout the coming year, we are honored to take part in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and we will have many opportunities for you to join us!

Bear Amelia at Arosa Bear Sanctuary

Rescued Bear Amelia at Arosa Bear Sanctuary

How our work at FOUR PAWS intersects with the Endangered Species Act

At FOUR PAWS, we work to help animals under direct human influence, revealing their suffering, rescuing animals in need, and protecting animals across the globe. While we are best known for our animal sanctuaries where we care for animals that have been rescued from inhumane captive keeping around the world, we recognize the importance of protecting the natural habitats of these species, and we support legislation and regulation to this end.

In an ideal world, the animals in our sanctuaries would have been born in the wild and would be allowed to live their full lives in their natural habitats without the intrusion of human violence and destruction. Unfortunately, this is far from our current reality, and most of the animals in our care have been either born in captivity or kept in captivity from such a young age that they can no longer be released into the wild. Our sanctuaries are built with the animals’ needs in mind, and we aim to create the most species appropriate and natural living situations for our animals that we can.

Starlight Tigers at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary

The "Starlight" Tigers were rescued from a circus in Germany, and they now live at our LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. 

Many of the animals in our sanctuaries are endangered or threatened species, such as lions, tigers, bears, cheetahs, pumas, servals, and others. Sadly, some people see wild animals as something to collect, sell, display, and make a profit from. Many of these circumstances are less than ideal for the animals, and sometimes downright cruel and dangerous, such as with cub petting operations. In some of these circles, endangered species are viewed as even more valuable and desirable for a personal collection. For example, it is estimated that there are more tigers living in captivity than there are living in the wild. Of course, it is never a good idea to have a wild animal for a pet or as a part of a private collection. It is not only cruel to the animals, but it is also dangerous for the people who interact with the animals, as well as for the community they live in. At FOUR PAWS, we believe that animals deserve to be treated with respect, empathy, and understanding, and they should not be subjected to life in captivity, except in the rarest of circumstances. 

Conserving habitat and protecting wildlife is vitally important to both the wellbeing of animals as well as the health of earth’s ecosystems. Allowing wild places to remain wild will also help eliminate conflicts between humans and animals, as many of these altercations occur when humans infringe on animal’s homes, often in the name of “developing” land or by cutting down natural land to allow for more farmland.


Orangutan Eska at the Forest School

Orangutan Eska at our ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL in Borneo

At our Orangutan Forest School in Borneo, these are precisely the circumstances that lead to many of the orangutans being orphaned. Since 1950, three-quarters of Borneo’s rain forests have been destroyed for human activities, mainly for industrial agriculture such as palm oil plantation, and extractive activities such as coal mining. The orangutans are losing their habitat, and with nowhere to go, they come into conflict with people, who have come to view them as pests.

The goal of our Forest School is to teach the orangutans the skills they need to survive in the wild, and to ultimately release the mature orphans back into their natural rain forest. Of course, it is key that we protect enough of their habitat so that there is a place for these deserving animals to return to.

Humans and animals share planet Earth, and protecting wild species through important legislation like the Endangered Species Act, as well as caring for those animals who have been kept in captivity and found themselves under direct human influence, are two goals towards the same end. We want to improve the lives of animals in all places they live on Earth, and to help them live the most natural and fulfilling lives possible.

Massachusetts Endangered Species Act

In addition to the federal Endangered Species Act, most US states also have state Endangered Species Acts, which protect local, vulnerable plants and animals. FOUR PAWS USA is based in Boston, and our home state of Massachusetts protects 432 species under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA). Species such as the Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle and Red-bellied Cooters (a type of turtle) have benefited from protection under MESA, and are now viewed as recovery success stories. 4

Peregrine falcon at Haringsee

Peregrine Falcon who was nursed back to health at our Owls & Birds of Prey Rescue Station Haringsee in Austria.

International Endangered Species Protection

Our federal Endangered Species Act provides protection both for animals that live within the United States and for animals that live outside our borders. As a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United States works with more than 160 countries across the globe to protect the natural world. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a comprehensive list of more than 40,000 animals, plants, and fungus at risk of extinction, and working with the IUCN allows the US to help create protections for species in foreign countries.

Additionally, the US is one of the parties who adheres to the international agreement known as CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). This agreement aims to “ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.”  5 CITES prohibits the commercial trade of species that are considered the most critically endangered, and animals such as Asiatic black bears and tigers fall under this category. It also regulates the trade of animals such as lions and brown bears which are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but who may become so if trade is not closely controlled. These international agreements and partnerships are an important part of ensuring that endangered species are protected worldwide.

Bear Thi at Ninh Binh

Asiatic Black Bears, like Thi at our BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, are protected by CITES, an international agreement amongst nations. 

The Latest ESA at 50 News

August 2023: FOUR PAWS partners with artist Sonny Sundancer to create tiger mural in New York City

FOUR PAWS partnered with artist Sonny Sundancer to paint a tiger mural in New York City as a part of the Endangered Species Act 50th Anniversary National Mural Project. The three-story tall mural advocates for continued protection for tigers under the Endangered Species Act and brings attention to FOUR PAWS’ Break the Vicious Cycle Campaign, which aims to ban the commercial trade of all big cats in South Africa.  

A public unveiling took place on Monday, July 31, at 188 Lafayette St in lower Manhattan, where wildlife advocates and supporters gathered to view the finished artwork and show support for global tiger protection. 

“The tiger holds a very special place in our hearts. Amidst our unwavering efforts to safeguard this majestic species, we unveil a triumphant three-story dedication to hope and activism, as a towering testament to the Endangered Species Act fueled by firm commitment and indomitable will,” said Danika Oriol-Morway, Country Director, FOUR PAWS USA. “We hope this message beckons the world to unite in purpose, to preserve endangered life, shield our planet, and forge a future where hope thrives for all living beings.”

You can see the mural in-person at 188 Lafayette St. in Manhattan, and learn more about the mural here. Feel free to take photos and tag @fourpawsusa for a chance to get shared in our stories!

About the Artist

Sonny Behan, also known as Sonny Sundancer, is an acclaimed artist renowned for his magnificent large-scale wildlife murals and intricately detailed oil paintings. His art, which seamlessly blends realism with abstraction, can be found in galleries and streets worldwide, from South Africa to New York. His bold use of color and dynamic compositions capture the movement of the animals he brings to life.

Tiger mural in New York City

FOUR PaWS partnered with artist Sonny Sundancer to create a mural to advocate for tigers on the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

May, 2023: The launch of the Endangered Species Act 50th Anniversary National Mural Project

We are excited to share the launch of the Endangered Species Act 50th Anniversary National Mural Project!  The mural series will spotlight regional ecological and cultural diversity within the US by highlighting plants and animals that are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Species that are currently listed and in danger of extinction will be featured as well as some species who have recovered thanks to this landmark legislation. Murals will be installed throughout 2023 at regional locations across the US, including in Oregon, Arizona, Massachusetts, Florida and in other states.

The very first mural is located located in Doña Ana, New Mexico. Designed by artist Raquel Madrigal, the mural features the boreal owl, gila monster, and two endangered fish species –  the Chihuahua Chub and Roundtail Chub.

Migration is the artwork’s theme, with the river symbolizing the innate movement of humans and animals across the landscape. The river depicted in the mural is a potent force, breathing new life into the terrain and restoring its vitality. In the mural's corners, one can observe the towering cottonwood trees, which are indigenous to the Doña Ana community and serve as a poignant reminder of the region's rich natural heritage.

Artist Raquel Madrigal shares this inspiring quote about her work: “Despite the obstacles faced by the endangered species depicted in the mural, the artwork's overarching message is one of hope. It conveys that through diligent effort and unwavering commitment, it is conceivable to re-establish equilibrium in the ecosystem and revive the region's vitality. The mural is a beautiful tribute to the significance of preserving the natural world and its diverse fauna.”

See the mural here

November, 2022: Winner of the ESA at 50 Logo Contest Announced:

We are pleased to announce the winning entry for the ESA at 50 logo contest! The winning logo, by artist Nicole Bennion, was selected through a competitive voting process in which more than 4,000 people submitted a vote for their preferred logo. 

Thank you to all of the artists and designers who shared work, and congratulations to Nicole! The logo design represents the celebratory tone of upcoming Endangered Species Act at 50 events. 

The coalition will soon be sharing more information about upcoming events and ways you can participate. Be sure to check back here for more updates, and follow our social media accounts for the latest animal news! @fourpawsusa

Winning design for ESA at 50 Logo Contest

October, 2022 Call to Artists and Designers

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2023, we have an exciting opportunity for artists (and aspiring artists) of all ages to create a logo in honor of this important milestone. 

To elevate and recognize the incredible events being planned, we’re seeking your designs for an Endangered Species Act at 50 logo to be used across all Endangered Species Act at 50 events. Events featuring the logo will be in-person and virtual, on digital platforms including webpages/websites, social media, and in other locations.  

 Learn more about the contest here.

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