For Immediate Release, August 24, 2007
Contact: Kieran Suckling, (520) 275-5960
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award
Kempthorne Surpasses James Watt By Protecting Fewer Endangered Species
Than Any Interior Secretary in History
WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today presented Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne with the first annual Rubber Dodo Award.
Since his confirmation as secretary of the interior on May 26, 2006, Kempthorne has not placed a single plant or animal on the federal endangered species list. The last listing (12 Hawaiian picture-wing flies) occurred on May 9, 2006 — 472 days ago. The previous recordholder was James Watt, who listed no species for 376 days between 1981 and 1982.
Watt's refusal to list species resulted in a 1982 congressional amendment to the Endangered Species Act, which established firm timelines for listing species and litigation consequences for violating the deadlines. Kempthorne’s refusal prompted Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce H.R. 3459, the “Transparent Reporting Under ESA Listing Act,” on August 4, 2007. It would amend the Endangered Species Act to require the secretary to explain the scientific basis of decisions to deny Endangered Species Act protections to imperiled plants and animals.
“Kempthorne is eminently deserving of the first annual Rubber Dodo award,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which administers the award. “His refusal to protect a single imperiled species in more than 15 months gives him the worst record of any interior secretary in the history of the Endangered Species Act. His policies should go the way of the dodo as soon as possible.”
“Political appointees like Kempthorne come and go, but extinction is forever. No politician has the right to destroy the future of an endangered species.”
In 1598, Dutch sailors landing on the uninhabited island of Mauritius discovered a flightless, three-foot tall, extraordinarily friendly bird. Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. (Contemporary scientists use the less defamatory Raphus cucullatus.) To the rest of the world, it's the dodo — the most famous extinct species on earth. Having evolved over millions of year with no natural predators, the dodo lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.
Its trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681, the dodo was extinct, having been hunted and out-competed by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques, and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover and pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.
The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe).
The dodo’s reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naiveté and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were accidentally produced by overfeeding captive birds.
2007 marks the inaugural year of the Rubber Dodo Award, which will be presented annually by the Center for Biological Diversity to a deserving individual in public or private service who has done the most to drive endangered species extinct.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.