NRDC and Partners Sue to Protect Imperiled Giraffes

Giraffes are victim to extreme poaching and habitat loss—but the Trump administration has done nothing to help.

A group of Rothschild's giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for its failure to consider much-needed Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the rapidly disappearing giraffe.

“Giraffes are headed toward extinction, in part due to our country’s importation of giraffe parts and trophies,” says Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC’s Wildlife Trade Initiative. An ESA listing would help track and limit the market for giraffe bones and other body parts, as well as potentially increase funding for conservation efforts in Africa.

The suit—filed by NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International—challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to meaningfully respond within the required 90 days to a petition to list the giraffe under the ESA. It’s now been 19 months since the petition was filed, and just weeks ago, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature confirmed that two of Africa’s nine giraffe subspecies are critically endangered.

“Instead of throwing these majestic animals a lifeline under the Endangered Species Act, Trump officials are twiddling their thumbs,” says Tanya Sanerib, international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump will be to blame if future generations know giraffes only as toys and not the long-necked icons of Africa.”

The giraffe population has dropped nearly 40 percent in the last three decades—leaving fewer than 100,000 giraffes in the wild. Habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting for meat, and the international trade in bone carvings, skins, and trophies all contribute to the problem. Giraffes are also regularly hunted for sport, which may be a reason for the FWS’s delayed action—the Trump administration has routinely bolstered trophy hunting of exotic animals, going so far as to fill its International Wildlife Conservation Council with pro-hunting lobbyists (another lawsuit NRDC is fighting).

“The Trump administration would rather allow its rich donors to mount giraffe trophies on their walls than protect giraffes,” says Pepper. “It’s shameful—though unsurprising—that the Interior Department has refused to protect them under the Endangered Species Act, and I hope the courts will agree.”’

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