World Wildlife Conference: Parties Vote to Help End Giraffes’ Silent Extinction

Global Community Votes to Protect Giraffes Under CITES

GENEVA – Today, at the 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18), also known as the World Wildlife Conference, countries from around the world agreed to restrict the international trade in giraffe parts in an effort to help save the species from extinction.

Following is a statement from Elly Pepper, Deputy Director of International Wildlife Conservation at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“By placing strict trade limits on giraffe parts, the CITES Parties have recognized that uncontrolled trade could threaten giraffe survival.  Thanks to today’s decision, the international trade in giraffe parts – which includes rugs and bone carvings – will be tracked in a manner that allows us to focus on problem trends in destructive trade, and fight for additional protections if necessary.”

“We hope the U.S. – which strongly supported this proposal – will echo this important decision by listing giraffes under our own Endangered Species Act as soon as possible. With a million species threatened with extinction, many within decades, we must act now to get ahead of destructive trade in giraffes and other species.”


The giraffe range states of the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal submitted a proposal to list giraffes under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). While the decision will not prohibit international trade in giraffes and their parts,  it will ensure that all giraffe parts in trade are legally acquired and that exporting countries have determined the trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species. The decision will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that would justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future. 

With fewer giraffes remaining than elephants, the species is undergoing a “silent extinction,” declining by 40% in the past 30 years. Giraffes face many threats, including habitat loss, disease, international trade in giraffe parts, poaching for bushmeat, and trophy hunting. Their populations are, for the most part, small, fragmented, and scattered widely. For example, while giraffes used to range throughout much of West Africa, their only remaining population in that region consists of 425 giraffes in Niger. For this reason, seven of the nine giraffe subspecies have been classified as threatened with extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In recent years, the trade in giraffe parts has become an emerging problem. While we have lacked international trade data for giraffes since they were not previously listed under CITES, U.S. data reveals trade in giraffe parts is soaring with almost 40,000 giraffe parts imported to the U.S. between 2006 and 2015—the equivalent of at least 3,751 giraffes.  The most common giraffe parts seen in trade are bone carvings, raw bones (which are widely used for knife handles), and skins. The United States is currently considering whether to list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act, after a lawsuit by NRDC and its partners.

The IPBES Global Assessment, which was released earlier this year, found that around one million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, absent transformative change.

To read more, visit Elly Pepper’s blog


This week, the World Wildlife Conference (CITES CoP18) is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in wild animals does not threaten their survival in the wild. This comes, as the IPBES Global Assessment, which was released earlier this year, found that around one million species are threatened with extinction, many  within decades, absent transformative change. Experts from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are attending the conference to advocate for the protection of imperiled species.

For more information on CITES, visit:


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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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