Press Release

Lawsuit Prompts U.S. Officials to Consider Protecting Giraffes

Tanya Sanerib, Center for Biological Diversity
tsanerib@biologicaldiversity.org
(206) 379-7363

Rodi Rosensweig, Humane Society International/The Humane Society of the United States
rrosensweig@humanesociety.org
(203) 270-8929

Daniela Arellano, Natural Resources Defense Council
darellano@nrdc.org, (310) 434-2304

WASHINGTON — After a prod from a lawsuit filed by conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that giraffes may qualify for protection under America’s Endangered Species Act.

The 2018 lawsuit — brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, Humane Society of the United States, and the Natural Resources Defense Council — seeks a response to their April 2017 legal petition for Endangered Species Act protection for giraffes. The species is gravely imperiled by habitat loss and fragmentation, civil unrest and overhunting, as well as the international trade in bone carvings, skins, and trophies.

The United States provides a large market for giraffe parts: More than 21,400 bone carvings, 3,000 skin pieces and 3,700 hunting trophies were imported over the past decade. Limiting U.S. import and trade would give giraffes important protections, and an ESA listing would also help provide critical funding for conservation work in Africa.

“The U.S. on average imports more than one giraffe trophy a day, and thousands of giraffe parts are sold domestically each year,” said Anna Frostic, attorney for the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. “The federal government must now expeditiously take stock of the role we are playing in giraffe decline and how we can work to instead save these unique animals.”

Africa’s giraffe population has plunged nearly 40 percent in the past 30 years. It now stands at just over 97,000 individuals.

“This is a big step toward protecting giraffes from the growing use of their bones by U.S. gun and knife makers,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s disgusting that it took a lawsuit to prompt the Trump administration to act. Saving everyone’s favorite long-necked animal from extinction should have been the easiest call in the world.”

With fewer giraffes 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. “The United States has taken action to help staunch the trade of numerous species in trouble. Sadly, now it is time to take action to ensure giraffes remain on the planet. They need Endangered Species Act protections and they need them now.”

Known for their six-foot-long necks, distinctive patterning and long eyelashes, giraffes have captured the human imagination for centuries. New research recently revealed that 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 whole species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has 12 months to decide whether Endangered Species Act listing is warranted.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For more than 25 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsi.org.

The Humane Society of the United States is the most effective animal protection organization, as rated by our peers. For more than 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We and our affiliates are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 150,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our more than 60 years of transformational change for animals and people. HumaneSociety.org.

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, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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