Known for their long necks, distinctive size and pattern, giraffes are captivating creatures. But sadly, with an alarming decline in population and rise of trophy hunting, giraffes could soon be on the endangered species list.
According to the Humane Society, the giraffe population has declined by 40 percent in the last 30 years, with the U.S. being a major contributor due to lack of regulations of imports of giraffe parts from trophy hunters and poachers.
On April 25, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that giraffes might qualify for protection under America’s Endangered Species Act, according to the Humane Society.
After a review of a petition to protect the animals, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found “substantial information” to support requests that they should indeed be listed as threatened or endangered.
“Other threats identified by the petition that the Service will seek to verify include commercial trade, recreational hunting, poaching, disease, small populations and genetic isolation,” said the agency.
The recent movement on the issue by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in response to a 2018 lawsuit by the Humane Society seeking a response from a 2017 legal petition for Endangered Species Act protection for giraffes.
The Humane Society reports that the giraffe population “is gravely imperiled by habitat loss and fragmentation, civil unrest and overhunting, as well as the international trade in bone carvings, skins, and trophies.”
Anna Frostic, managing wildlife attorney for the Humane Society said, “The United States cannot stand idly by and allow thousands of U.S. imports of giraffe parts every year without any regulation while these animals are on a path to extinction.”
An undercover investigation by the Humane Society in 2018 found that giraffe parts and products were sold online by at least 51 dealers across the U.S., with some parts being sold for upwards of $8,000.
“Giraffe parts are considered by consumers as a 'new exotic' popular in part as an alternative to ivory and other products for which regulations have tightened,” said the Humane Society.
U.S. law does not currently prohibit the trade of giraffe parts and with high demand, this can fuel poaching and trophy hunting which further decreases the population that is already facing a dangerous decline. Putting giraffes on the endangered species list would give them certain protections that would hopefully stop the decline in population.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature currently has the threat status of giraffes at “vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species with two subspecies of giraffes being deemed “endangered.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 12 months to decide whether Endangered Species Act listing is warranted.