Aug. 23, 2018 – Nearly 4,000 giraffes killed by trophy hunters were imported into the United States over the last decade. Now, a new undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International has revealed the scale of the U.S. market for giraffe knife handles, Western boots, furniture, taxidermy and even bible covers.
Giraffe parts and products are widely available around the country, in wholesale and retail stores and online. HSUS investigations found giraffe parts for sale by at least 52 dealers in the United States. The most common parts we found were Western boots made from giraffe leather and specialty knives made with giraffe bone handles. Products ranged in prices from $8,000 for a partial giraffe taxidermy trophy to $10 for tail-hair bracelets.
Giraffes are strikingly beautiful animals, with distinct patterns and long legs and necks. Unfortunately, that beauty has also made them a ‘new exotic’ and sparked a market in giraffe leather, bone and trophies, especially as other wildlife products, like elephant ivory, have been regulated.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the giraffe’s numbers have dwindled by about 36 to 40 percent since the 1980s, and with less than 100,000 remaining in the wild, this unique animal is in serious jeopardy. While part of this steep decline has been driven by habitat loss and civil unrest in the nations where giraffes live, the trade in giraffe trophies and parts poses an additional danger to this species.
Two sellers falsely claimed that the giraffes had to be killed to protect African villages from destruction. HSUS investigations also uncovered disturbing connections between the American trophy hunting industry and the giraffe products trade. American trophy hunters import more than one giraffe trophy into the United States every day, and the hunting outfitters that help to arrange their hunts often generate further profits by selling the remaining giraffe parts.
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For instance, a Florida maker of giraffe-hide gun cases said the company buys giraffe hides from trophy hunters. An Arno Bernard Knives representative told an HSUS investigator that the company uses giraffe bones left behind by hunters for its knife handles. Several giraffe taxidermy retailers told the HSUS their giraffe taxidermy was sourced from trophy hunters. Several giraffe hunt outfitting companies in Africa told our investigators they would make use of giraffe parts left behind by trophy hunters. And a taxidermist in Namibia, a country very popular with trophy hunters, offered our investigator $300 for giraffe skin and $30 for giraffe bones.
The market in giraffe parts is not currently regulated in this country. This is why the HSUS, Humane Society International and partner conservation groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list giraffes as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. An “endangered” listing would restrict the import, export and sale of giraffe specimens here in the United States, thus helping to eliminate the incentive to kill them. But we haven’t heard a peep from the agency since our petition was submitted in April 2017.
Americans expect their government to be a leader in conservation, and it is high time that the USFWS acts on the petition to prevent a further decline in the world’s giraffe population. Consumers can play their part by avoiding and discouraging the purchase of giraffe products and parts. With more public awareness, we can make this deplorable trade in giraffe parts and products extinct, and save this gentle giant from extinction.
Kitty Block is acting President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and President of Humane Society International, the international affiliate of The HSUS. www.humanesociety.org