Giraffes are in desperate need of protection. There are fewer giraffes than elephants now in the wild, and if we are to protect these gentle and beautiful animals from going extinct, we need to act fast to keep them out of the sights of trophy hunters and poachers.
In April last year, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and our partners filed a petition with the Department of the Interior seeking “endangered” status for all giraffes under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. But 20 months have elapsed and the agency has failed to initiate a status review on giraffes and solicit comment from public and scientific experts, as it should have done. Instead, our petition has been gathering dust even as giraffe populations dwindle.
Today, in an effort to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to move the process forward, we, along with our partners, filed a lawsuit challenging the agency’s failure to respond to our petition.
The FWS should not wait any longer. The need is so dire and the United States has the ability to turn this devastating trend for these animals. Our country is the largest importer of giraffe trophies, and American trophy hunters import an average of more than one giraffe per day. An endangered or threatened listing for giraffes would prevent trophy hunters from importing the animals they kill into the country.
Earlier this year, an HSUS and HSI undercover investigation demonstrated just how rampant the market for trophy hunted giraffe parts is in the United States. Our investigators found giraffe parts and products sold online and in stores by at least 51 dealers across the country. Between 2006 and 2015, the U.S. imported approximately 40,000 giraffe parts and products mostly for commercial purposes, including for fashion, knife handles and home décor. Among these imports were about 21,000 giraffe bone carvings, nearly 4,000 raw bones, about 3,000 skin pieces, almost 2,000 raw bone pieces and more than 700 skins.
The FWS’s failure to act despite all of this evidence, while frustrating, is not entirely surprising. The agency has demonstrated in recent months that it has the ear and the interests of the trophy hunting lobby. Earlier this year, the FWS appointed an advisory group that’s euphemistically named International Wildlife Conservation Council, on which it’s spending $250,000 per year. This group is composed entirely of trophy hunting interests whose mission is to decrease protections for imperiled species targeted by trophy hunters. We have challenged the legitimacy of this council as well.
Most Americans do not support trophy hunting, and we do not want our government to be complicit in the killing of wild animals. There are fewer than 100,000 giraffes left in the wild, and their numbers are declining rapidly. There is no U.S. law that protects giraffes against over-exploitation and we need the FWS to act fast and list these gentle giants under the Endangered Species Act to save them from extinction. Please add your voice to ours and make it difficult for the FWS to continue ignoring this important issue.