Conservationists Urge US To List Giraffes As Endangered And Stop Import Of Hunting Trophies

Giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent in 30 years, partly due to the desire for big game hunting trophies. Craig Fraser/Shutterstock 

Conservationists are urging the US government to list giraffes as “endangered” under the US Endangered Species Act, due to big game trophy hunting of the creatures in Africa, largely by hunters from the US, contributing to their dramatic decline.

The Endangered Species Act can include animals that are not found in America, and a coalition of groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, and International Fund for Animal Welfare, argue that America's contribution to the decline of these creatures needs to be recognized and rectified. By placing restrictions on importing giraffe parts into the US, it could, in fact, help save them from extinction.

Giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent in the last 30 years, almost slipping by people as declining elephant and rhino populations took center stage. Now, the population of giraffes in Africa stands at just 97,000, down from the 150,000 recorded in 1985.

“Giraffes have been dying off silently for decades, and we have to act quickly before they disappear forever,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “There are now fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa. It’s time for the United States to step up and protect these extraordinary creatures.”

The main causes of the decline in giraffes is down to hunting for bushmeat, loss of habitat, big game hunting trophies, and the international trade in giraffe bone carvings. The group argues this is where the US can help, by putting restrictions on the importing and trading of giraffe parts and hunting trophies, much like they have with ivory. 

“Previously, the public was largely unaware that trophy hunters were targeting these majestic animals for trophies and selfies,” said Masha Kalinina from Humane Society International. “In the past few years, several gruesome images of trophy hunters next to slain giraffe bodies have caused outrage, bringing this senseless killing to light.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the US has imported more than 21,400 giraffe bone carvings, 3,000 giraffe skins, and 3,700 hunting trophies in the last decade. When they looked at giraffe parts for sale online, they found 1,224 in just one month. This is why the group has officially petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to give giraffes protection under the Endangered Species Act, claiming the US is “uniquely positioned to help conserve these tall, graceful and iconic animals.” The Service now has 90 days to respond.

“Currently, no U.S. or international law protects giraffes against overexploitation for trade. It is clearly time to change this,” Kalinina added. “As the largest importer of trophies in the world, the role of the United States in the decline of this species is undeniable, and we must do our part to protect these animals.”

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