WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2018 — Conservation groups today filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to respond to a legal petition to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was required to respond to the April 2017 petition within 90 days, but nearly 17 months have passed with no finding.
“As giraffe populations plummet, the Trump administration won’t even take the first step toward protecting these beautiful animals,” said Tanya Sanerib, international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Africa now has fewer giraffes than elephants, but the administration refuses to throw these imperiled creatures a lifeline. That has to change, before it’s too late.”
The 2017 petition — by the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Natural Resources Defense Council — seeks Endangered Species Act protection for giraffes, whose populations have plummeted nearly 40 percent over the past 30 years.
Just over 97,000 giraffes remain in the wild, and the species is gravely imperiled by habitat loss, civil unrest, hunting for meat and the international trade in bone carvings, skins and trophies. 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.
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Endangered Species Act protection would help curb imports of giraffe bones and other parts, increase funding for conservation efforts in Africa and raise public awareness of the animals’ plight.
The United States provides a large market for giraffe parts. On average, the U.S. imports about one giraffe hunting trophy a day, and the country has imported more than 21,400 giraffe bone carvings over the past decade.
“Giraffe bones are becoming the new ivory, and the United States is heavily implicated in this deadly international trade,” said Sanerib. “We’re a big part of the problem, and Endangered Species Act protections for giraffes would help us be part of the solution.”
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.