Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told a conservation group Saturday that "no wolves will be removed from Yellowstone on my watch," a sign his department will fight a court order to remove the animals from the national park.

Babbitt made his remark during a speech to the National Wildlife Foundation at its 62nd annual meeting. His comments drew a standing ovation from the group and coincided with the third anniversary of the first gray wolf being released back into the wild at the Wyoming park.Since then, some 165 wolves have been returned to public lands in Yellowstone and central Idaho. Wildlife officials say that, if left alone, the animals will recover sufficiently to be removed from the federal list of endangered species.

But a U.S. District judge ruled in December that the reintroduced wolves and their offspring must be recaptured and removed.

The judge said the reintroduction effort actually diminished the endangered species protection given to native wolves.

Babbitt told the wildlife foundation that neither U.S. nor Canadian zoos want the animals, which might mean they would have to be killed.