Breaking! Giraffes Are To Be Given Trade Protections By Our World’s Nations At CITES; A Final Vote To Be Made In The Coming Days

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Parties involved in the international wildlife treaty at the CITES Conference this week agreed to regulate trade in giraffes, throwing the imperiled species a lifeline as their numbers continues to plummet. The agreement was made to protect giraffes for the first time by listing the species on Appendix II. A coalition of African nations proposed the protections, which requires permits and tracking of exports in live and dead giraffes and their parts. The fact that there is even a trade in giraffes is shocking.

The proposal was voted on during this week’s meeting for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), with 21 countries opposed, 106 countries in favor and seven countries abstaining. Separately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act.

“This is wonderful news for giraffes, and we’re grateful for the international support for everyone’s favorite long-necked mammal,” said Tanya Sanerib, International Legal Director at the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. “With fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa, it was a no-brainer to simply regulate giraffe exports. But it’s still urgent for the Trump administration to protect these imperiled animals under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.”

Giraffes are cherished around the world, but few know they are disappearing — slipping towards what scientists call a “silent extinction.” Overall, giraffe populations dropped by up to 40% between 1985 and 2015. With only around 97,000 remaining, there are fewer giraffes than elephants in the wild today.

Habitat loss, poaching and illegal hunting are the top threats to giraffes, which have become a common species in the wildlife trade. The United States is the world’s largest importer of wildlife, and between 2006 and 2015, nearly 40,000 giraffe specimens were imported into the country. U.S. giraffe imports included thousands of bones and skin pieces — and an average of at least one hunting trophy every day.

In May, scientists with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) issued assessments predicting the loss of a million species in the next few decades if drastic changes are not made. The assessments identified overexploitation — including trade — as the second greatest driver of species extinction.

“The giraffe decision is great news for this species,” said Sanerib. “But after the grim warning from UN scientists in May, it’s clear that CITES has its work cut out for it to stem the extinction crisis. Wildlife overexploitation, including by trade, was identified as the second greatest driver of species’ extinction. CITES parties have to focus and fund conservation, including for species like giraffes, if they’re to have a future.”

The Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal put forward the proposed trade protections, and it was supported by all 32 African nation members of the African Elephant Coalition. While yesterday’s decision still requires a final vote in the coming days, the decision is unlikely to change.

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