FoA to FWS: Giraffes need ESA protections or face extinction

Habitat loss, trophy hunting, poaching, climate change, mining and the bushmeat trade have placed giraffes in danger of extinction and they should be placed on the Endangered Species List, Friends of Animals said in comments it recently filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Giraffes currently have no protection under U.S. law.

The species has declined nearly 40 percent to just under 100,000 in the past three decades from more than 150,000.

In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which recognizes one species of giraffe and nine subspecies, elevated the threat level of giraffes two categories to “vulnerable to extinction.”

In 2019, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species listed giraffes on Appendix II which regulates commerce and trade in the species but doesn’t ban it.

Although animal advocacy groups filed a petition urging FWS to list giraffes as endangered in 2017, the agency has yet to list them.

Meanwhile, trade in their parts continues to thrive with the U.S. being a major importer.

“It is widely recognized that the U.S. market and American trophy hunting culture are driving factors contributing to both legally targeted hunting and illegal hunting of giraffes. More than 40,000 giraffe parts and products were imported into the U.S. over one decade’s time.” FoA said in comments filed by its Wildlife Law Program.

Between 2006 and 2016, the U.S. imported 21,402 bone carvings, 3,008 skin pieces and 3,744 hunting trophies and 3,000 pelts and skin products and 825 jewelry pieces. Body parts are being turned into Western boots, knives, pillows, rugs and furniture.

“As soon as you put a price tag on vulnerable, threatened and endangered animals, you send a mixed message about whether or not they need to be protected at all, and that’s detrimental to actual conservation,” FoA President Priscilla Feral said. “There is urgency to the U.S. to act fast to protect giraffes.”

The pandemic and civil unrest has only worsened the dangers giraffes are facing overseas, FoA noted in the comments as illegal poaching has risen this past year. There were more than 300 poaching incidents for the bushmeat trade in Uganda this year, which was twice as much as in 2019.

In addition to urging FWS to list giraffes on ESA, FoA is also working to protect them from trophy hunters by supporting legislation in Connecticut and New York – the nation’s largest importer of trophies—that would ban the importation, possession, sale or transportation of the trophies of African giraffes as well as leopards, lions, elephants, and black and white rhinos and their body parts. The legislation known as the Big 5 African Trophies Act, has twice passed the state senates in New York and CT. FoA is working to move the bill to law in both states in the upcoming legislation sessions. Read more here about FoA’s efforts to protect giraffes and how you can help.