It would be hard to picture an African landscape without giraffes. But sadly, that future may be a reality: The tallest land mammals in the world are headed toward extinction.
Giraffe populations have declined almost 40% over the last 30 years, mostly because of hunting for bushmeat, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and the international trade in giraffe bone carvings and hunting trophies.
That’s why, conservation groups—NRDC, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare—today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help protect giraffes by listing them as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Such a listing would have several important benefits for giraffes. For example, it would:
- Ban most imports of giraffe parts into the U.S. and limit exports. This is critical since our country is actually a significant importer of giraffe parts and products, with more than 21,400 giraffe bone carvings and 3,000 giraffe skin pieces imported into the U.S. over the last decade.
- Help regulate our country’s domestic trade in giraffe trophies and parts, which appears to be growing. NRDC and its partners found at least 1,224 giraffe parts found for sale online in the U.S. in less than a month.
- Help reduce trophy hunting of giraffes. Currently, the U.S. is a significant importer of giraffe hunting trophies, with, on average, more than one giraffe trophy imported to the U.S. every day.
Some have referred to the plight of giraffes as a “silent extinction” because very few people realize it’s even happening. Until recently, we didn’t even realize there were multiple species of giraffe, let alone that they were quietly disappearing from wildlands. But we can’t allow that to continue.
With the growing market for giraffe parts and unprecedented levels of giraffe trophy imports into the U.S., it is imperative that we do everything in our power to protect these graceful creatures. Giving giraffes Endangered Species Act protections would bring worldwide attention to their plight. It would also help generate funding for scientific research and conservation of giraffes where they live, so we can continue to see these iconic creatures in Africa for generations to come.