Being known for their six-foot-long necks, unique patterning and long eyelashes, giraffes have captivated the human imagination for centuries. Now with just over 97,000 individuals from habitat loss, hunting for meat and the international trade in bone carvings and trophies, the African giraffe population has plummeted about 40 percent in the past 30 years.
Five wildlife protection groups petitioned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the giraffe under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, Internatio International Fund for Animal Welfare and Natural Resources Defense Council all seek an “endangered” status for the creature.
Giraffes and nine subspecies: West African, Kordofan, Nubian, reticulated, Masai, Thornicroft’s, Rothchild’s, Angolan and the South African giraffe are currently recognized by the IUCN.
“Giraffes have been dying off silently for decades, and now we have to act quickly before they disappear forever,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are now fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa. It’s time for the United States to step up and protect these extraordinary creatures.”
“Currently, no U.S. or international law protects giraffes against overexploitation for trade. It is clearly time to change this. As the largest importer of trophies in the world, the role of the United States in the decline of this species is undeniable, and we must do our part to protect these animals,” said Masha Kalinina, international trade policy specialist with the wildlife department of Humane Society International.
“I can’t — and won’t — imagine Africa’s landscape without giraffes,” said Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC’s wildlife trade initiative. “Losing one of the continent’s iconic species would be an absolute travesty. Giving giraffes Endangered Species Act protections would be a giant step in the fight to save them from extinction.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to review and respond to the petition and determine whether a listing may be warranted.