WASHINGTON (CN) -The Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly is endangered and warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says listing is precluded by other higher priority listings.
Instead, the agency placed the butterfly on the growing “candidate species list,” which, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, has grown to 261 species. The Center says that at least 24 species have gone extinct while waiting for protection under the act.
In a statement noting that the Obama administration is on pace to list fewer species it has determined warrant protection under the act than the first Bush or Clinton administrations, Jaclyn Lopez, staff attorney at the Center said, “The Endangered Species Act is the safety net for plants and animals headed toward extinction, but it only works if it’s used. The Obama administration’s reliance on a statutory loophole is allowing species to slip through the safety net and spiral toward extinction.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there may be as few as 45 or fewer adult individuals in the 356 acres of rainforest the Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly calls home. The butterfly is threatened by deforestation caused by residential and resort development.