Washington, D.C. – Giraffes are among the species most threated by the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, according to a report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, “Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump administration,” highlights impacts draft Department of Interior Rules would have on ten critically endangered species that also includes manatees and sea turtles.
“It’s hard to picture an African landscape without the image of willowy giraffes galloping across the savannah,” said Elly Pepper, deputy director of Wildlife Trade at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Our country is partly responsible for their demise because we regularly import giraffe parts used for bone carvings, apparel, and hunting trophies. The Trump administration must help prevent this activity by listing these iconic creatures under the Endangered Species Act, or face partial responsibility for their extinction,” she added.
Earlier this month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its partners filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, for its failure to protect the giraffe under the Endangered Species Act. The suit challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) inaction on a 2017 petition requesting Endangered Species Act protection for giraffes. USFWS did not respond with a date by which they would make a determination within the mandated timeframe so a lawsuit followed.
Adding to the challenge are Trump’s proposed rules, which would make it harder to list new species threatened by extinction. Giraffe populations have declined almost 40% over the last 30 years, mostly because of hunting for bushmeat, habitat destruction, and the international trade in giraffe bone carvings and hunting trophies. Trump’s attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act will add a hurdle for conservationists working to save the long necks from these threats.
The report’s list of most-impacted species includes the imperiled giraffe, characterized by its six-foot-long legs, a six-foot-long neck and a distinct patterned coat. The iconic creatures are symbolic of Africa and play a critical role in the continent’s tourism industry. Yet, the Trump administration failed to meaningfully respond to petitions requesting to list giraffes as an endangered species.
The new report notes that climate change and habitat loss are two of the biggest drivers in the decline of species like the giraffe. In spite of that, the Trump administration proposed a series of regulations last summer that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rules would:
- Make it much more difficult to protect species impacted by climate change
- Make it harder to list a new species and easier to remove those now on the list
- Make it harder to designate critical habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife
- Reduce protections for threatened species
“The Interior Department under President Trump has been especially cozy with the industries that are harming the very wildlife the Department is supposed to protect,” said Leda Huta, executive director for the Endangered Species Coalition, lead authors of the new report. “If the administration has its way, the new regulations will put these species on a fast track to extinction.”
Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration
- California Condor
- Humboldt Marten
- Sea Turtles: Leatherback and Loggerhead
- Red Wolf
- Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
- San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat
- West Indian Manatee
- Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with photos and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded at http://endangered.org/extinction-plan.
Although the Administration and some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House, and signed by President Richard Nixon 45 years ago on December 28. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.
Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction. The main tool in the United States to battle this human-caused crisis is the Endangered Species Act, which has been very effective in keeping species from sliding into extinction.
The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC