By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Giraffes, with their iconic lengthy necks and unmistakable, superbly patterned coats, are going through extinction. There are at the moment fewer than 69,000 mature people remaining within the wild in the present day. And the threats of habitat loss and unlawful looking for bushmeat are solely exacerbated by demand for giraffe trophies and different merchandise traded internationally.
The U.S. is partly accountable. People are importing giraffe physique components from trophy hunts, in addition to giraffe bones, skins and different components for industrial commerce at alarming charges. There are at the moment no federal protections to cease them.
At present, Humane Society Worldwide and the Humane Society of the US, in coalition with one other conservation group, are bringing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to courtroom for failing to behave on our 2017 petition to supply protections for the beloved species beneath the Endangered Species Act. Giving giraffes protections beneath the Endangered Species Act, as requested by our petition, would offer much-needed federal oversight over giraffe imports to the U.S. and solely imports that may be proven to profit the survival of the species can be allowed.
Between 2006 and 2015, greater than 40,000 giraffe merchandise had been imported into the U.S., together with 3,744 giraffe searching trophies—on common, multiple per day. These imports additionally included 21,402 giraffe bone carvings, 4,789 bones and three,008 pores and skin items, components used to create grotesque merchandise like knife handles, giraffe pores and skin pillows and even Bible covers, as revealed by a 2018 HSUS/HSI undercover investigation.
For years, we now have labored to extend protections for giraffes, each domestically and internationally. In 2018, we introduced the FWS to courtroom for failing to make an preliminary willpower on our petition. In early 2019, the company agreed with us that giraffes might qualify for endangered species safety.
Whereas this was a obligatory first step, the company nonetheless has to make a last willpower on whether or not to suggest endangered species protections for giraffes. By regulation, that call was due in April 2018—12 months after we filed our petition—but the company continues to tug its ft. It nonetheless hasn’t afforded giraffes lengthy overdue endangered species protections. At present’s lawsuit challenges the FWS’s failure to take well timed motion on giraffes.
Whereas giraffes have fortunately acquired some worldwide protections lately, these protections are proving inadequate on their very own. After important work by HSI, HSUS and others, giraffes had been listed beneath the Conference on Worldwide Commerce in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also called CITES, in 2019. This itemizing put in place monitoring and rules on the worldwide commerce in giraffes and merchandise derived from them. Nonetheless, a number of main African international locations which can be exporters of giraffes objected, saying they gained’t implement the export permits and safeguards required by the CITES itemizing. Sadly, we all know this CITES itemizing has achieved little to handle the U.S.’s contribution to giraffes’ perilous place.
This underscores the pressing want for the FWS to take motion to make sure that American imports of giraffe trophies and worldwide and home commerce in giraffes doesn’t proceed to threaten the survival of this iconic species. Itemizing giraffes as “endangered” beneath the Endangered Species Act will showcase the U.S. as a frontrunner within the conservation of giraffes, additional draw consideration to this long-neglected species and make extra conservation funding accessible. The itemizing will put in place essential safeguards for the species that may assist steadiness the dearth of sufficient protections in most of the international locations the place they roam. An “endangered” itemizing would require the FWS to scrutinize imports and make sure that they improve the survival of the species. The itemizing may even regulate interstate commerce in giraffe components, which can assist to crack down on the ugly circulate of merchandise present in our investigation.
Giraffes urgently want our assist. America’s position in pushing this species towards extinction should cease. We’re suing the Service in the present day to be able to drive motion on this important challenge earlier than it’s too late to avoid wasting this exceptional species.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.