Exposed to habitat loss, fragmentation, civil unrest, overhunting, and the international trade in bone carvings, skins, and trophies, giraffe may finally qualify for protection under America’s Endangered Species Act, after conservation groups filed a lawsuit
The Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, Humane Society of the United States, and the Natural Resources Defense Council sought a response to their April 2017 legal petition for Endangered Species Act protection for giraffes.
The United States provides a large market for giraffe parts and limiting US import and trade plus an ESA listing would help provide critical funding for conservation work in Africa, according to the HSI.
“The US imports at least one giraffe trophy a day, and thousands of giraffe parts are sold annually,” said Humane Society attorney Anna Frostic. “The federal government must take stock of the … giraffe decline and how we can work to save these unique animals.”
According to the HSI, Africa’s giraffe population now stands at just over 97,000 individuals.
“Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity said protecting giraffe from American. gun and knife makers. ‘ should have been the easiest call in the world’ adding that it was “disgusting it took a lawsuit to prompt the Trump administration to act.”
With fewer giraffe 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. “Now it is time to act … … (Giraffe) need Endangered Species Act protections.”
Giraffe have captured the human imagination for centuries. Research reveals 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 entire species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has 12 months to decide whether Endangered Species Act listing is warranted.