What kind of person shoots a giraffe to obtain a trophy? How difficult is it to shoot the tallest animal in the world? Imagine seeing a creature this size crumple to the ground after a trophy hunter’s bullets tear through the beautiful, patterned fur markings and into the creature’s flesh?
As the largest importer of hunting trophies in the world, including giraffe trophies, and a major importer of giraffe bone for use in knife handles, the United States has played a major role in the decline of giraffe populations. Today The HSUS, Humane Society International, the Center for Biological Diversity, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition with the Department of the Interior seeking “endangered” status for all giraffes under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The decline in giraffe numbers is unmistakable and severe, amounting to a loss of nearly 40 percent over the last 30 years.
The wild giraffe population (found entirely on the African continent), is estimated to number at 97,560, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are four times more elephants than giraffes in the wild, and some giraffe subspecies, such as the reticulated giraffe, are in particular peril.
Together, trophy hunters, bush meat poachers, bone traders, wildlife traffickers (for bones, hides, and tails), and consumers are compounding the problems created by habitat destruction.
Our petition reveals that between 2006 and 2015, U.S. trophy hunters imported 3,744 giraffe hunting trophies — an average of more than one giraffe trophy per day. It is sickening to contemplate that someone gets a thrill from shooting an animal that’s about as difficult to spot and stalk as a small construction crane. During this same decade, the United States also imported 21,402 giraffe bone carvings, 4,789 bones, and 3,008 skin pieces. Some safari companies even offer giraffe bow-hunting, with one claiming that “the sheer mass of the animal allows it to take a tremendous amount of hammering before it will go down.” Can we truly subject these beautiful animals to such cruelty?
Currently, no U.S. or international law protects giraffes against over-exploitation from trade in trophies, skins, or bones. An “endangered” listing would give giraffes the highest level of protection, resulting in a near-total restriction on U.S. imports and sales. As a global leader in conservation, the United States should act now to save these gentle giants from extinction and further senseless killings.