WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today passed legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I – Vt., to protect marine turtles and wild cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, and cougars. Both the “Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2003” and the “Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003” passed the Committee on a unanimous voice vote. Jeffords is the ranking member of the Committee The Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2003 The “Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2003” will assist in the recovery and protection of marine turtles by supporting projects to conserve their nesting habitats in foreign countries, preventing the illegal trade in marine turtle parts and products, and addressing other threats to the survival of marine turtles. The bill authorizes $5 million annually to implement the program. Six of the seven recognized species are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and all seven species have been included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Because marine turtles are long-living, late-maturing, and highly migratory, they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of human exploitation and habitat loss. In addition, for some species, illegal trade seriously threatens wild populations. Because of the immense challenges facing marine turtles, the resources available to date have not been sufficient to cope with the continued loss of nesting habitat due to human activities and the resulting diminution of marine turtle populations. Jeffords said, “Marine turtles were once abundant, but now they are in serious trouble. This legislation will help to preserve this ancient and distinctive part of the world=s biological diversity.” The Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003 The “Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003” will protect public safety and the welfare of wild cats that are increasingly being kept as pets. The bill amends the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to ban the interstate and foreign commerce of carnivorous wild cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, and cougars. The legislation would not ban all private ownership of these prohibited species, but would outlaw the commerce of these animals for use as pets. Current figures estimate that there are more than 5,000 tigers in captivity in the United States. There are more tigers in captivity in the United States than there are in native habitats throughout the range in Asia. While some tigers are kept in zoos, most of these animals are kept as pets, living in cages behind someone=s house, in a state that does not restrict private ownership of dangerous animals. Untrained owners are not capable of meeting the needs of these animals. Local veterinarians, animal shelters, and local governments are ill equipped to meet the challenge of providing for their proper care. If they are to be kept in captivity, these animals must be cared for by trained professionals who can meet their behavioral, nutritional, and physical needs. Jeffords said, “These cats are large and powerful animals, capable of injuring or killing innocent people. There are countless stories of many unfortunate and unnecessary incidents where dangerous exotic cats have endangered public safety.”