As per the lawsuit, the United States provides a large market for giraffe parts with more than 21,400 bone carvings, 3,000 skin pieces, and 3,700 hunting trophies having been imported over the past decade. Limiting U.S. import and trade would give giraffes important protections, and an ESA listing would also help provide critical funding for conservation work in Africa.
“The U.S. on average imports more than one giraffe trophy a day, and thousands of giraffe parts are sold domestically each year,” said Anna Frostic, attorney for the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. “The federal government must now expeditiously take stock of the role we are playing in giraffe decline and how we can work to instead save these unique animals.”
Africa’s giraffe population has plunged nearly 40% in the past 30 years. It now stands at just over 97,000 individuals.
“This is a big step toward protecting giraffes from the growing use of their bones by U.S. gun and knife makers,” Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in statement. “It’s disgusting that it took a lawsuit to prompt the Trump administration to act. Saving everyone’s favorite long-necked animal from extinction should have been the easiest call in the world.”
With fewer giraffes than elephants left in Africa, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature elevated the threat level to giraffes from “least concern” to “vulnerable” on its “Red List of Threatened Species” in 2016. That finding was confirmed in 2018 along with a critically endangered assessment of two giraffe subspecies and an endangered assessment for another.
“The United States has long been complicit in the trade of giraffe parts, so it’s time for the federal government to stick its neck out for this species,” said Elly Pepper with NRDC. “The United States has taken action to help limit the trade of numerous species in trouble. Sadly, now it is time to take action to ensure giraffes remain on the planet. They need Endangered Species Act protections and they need them now.”
Known for their six-foot-long necks, distinctive patterning and long eyelashes, giraffes have captured the human imagination for centuries. New research recently revealed that they live in complex societies, much like elephants, and have unique physiological traits, including the highest blood pressure of any land mammal.
The IUCN currently recognizes one species of giraffes and nine subspecies: West African, Kordofan, Nubian, reticulated, Masai, Thornicroft’s, Rothchild’s, Angolan and South African. The legal petition seeks an endangered listing for the whole species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has 12 months to decide whether Endangered Species Act listing is warranted.