U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, do your job and protect giraffes, or we’ll see you in court

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on October 14, 2020 with 8 Comments

It’s been more than three years since we filed a petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act from trophy hunting and other imminent threats to their survival. During this time, the agency has responded once last year—following a lawsuit we filed—to agree with us that giraffes may qualify for such protection. But instead of taking further action, as the law requires it to do, it has gone back to sitting on its hands.

Today, we are warning the USFWS that unless it acts swiftly to protect our planet’s tallest land mammal, we will see it in court.

By failing to act on the petition, filed by the Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity and other partner organizations, the USFWS is in clear violation of the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s highest law protecting endangered and threatened animals. The law requires the agency to take action within one year after a petition for listing a species is filed.

Such inaction is also not acceptable from our government agency tasked with protecting wildlife and promoting international wildlife conservation. Giraffes, like elephants and rhinos, are in crisis. There are fewer than 98,000 of these animals left in the wild—down from 150,000 in 1985—including fewer than 69,000 mature individuals. And threats to their lives are only intensifying, including habitat destruction, hunting for illegal bushmeat and wildlife trafficking.

Related: Gov. Cuomo signs bill making New York first U.S. state to ban giraffe trade

Our nation contributes to the problem by allowing the wildlife trade in the body parts of giraffes to continue. Between 2006 and 2015, U.S. trophy hunters imported 3,744 giraffe hunting trophies—on average, more than one per day—in addition to 21,402 giraffe bone carvings, 4,789 bones and 3,008 skin pieces imported into the country.

As an HSUS/HSI undercover investigation in 2018 found, giraffe parts are peddled at wholesale and retail stores around the country and online, usually as frivolous decorative items like pillows, boots, knife handles and Bible covers.

Global conservation leaders have taken steps to protect giraffes in recent years. Since 2018, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has reaffirmed that giraffes are “vulnerable” to extinction, and have classified two subspecies as “endangered” and two other subspecies, including one that has only 455 mature individuals remaining, as “critically endangered.” In 2019, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) gave giraffes important protections, though it does not require nations to ban the giraffe trade.

If we are to save giraffes from going extinct, it is crucial that nations like the United States crack down on this trade here. Listing giraffes as “endangered” under the ESA, as our petition requests, has the potential to make a real difference to the survival of this species. It would require the USFWS to make critical scientific findings in order to scrutinize imports and interstate sale of giraffe parts, and make additional conservation funding available.

Giraffes are rapidly disappearing from earth, with nearly 40 percent gone in just three decades. But the USFWS, which has the ability to stop American trophy hunters from accelerating this silent extinction, has made the unacceptable choice of remaining silent itself. We are putting the agency on notice today that we won’t relent on this issue until it stops pandering to special interest lobbies at such great cost to the world’s wildlife.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Karen Drennen says:

    Having the former lawyer for the Safari Club International appointed to be associate director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Commission does not help. This administration also has 2 sons which are avid trophy hunters and one was a keynote speaker at Safari Club International. Where is CITES? Botswana is selling out their elephants to trophy hunters and promoting they be killed.. There is no protection for these animals when the governments want money and care nothing about the precious resources they have in their county. We all felt bad for all the koala bears and millions of animals that died in Australian fires last year but Australia exports 3 million kangaroo skins annually to US and Europe mainly for soccer called K shoes and clothing. Nike , Adidas and Puma use them for shoes. Wake up and stop promoting this travesty by using their products.

  2. Jeanette Ortiz says:

    Save our kangaroos and all other wild life from extinction . Our wild life needs more protection from poachers and trophy hunters!

  3. Holly Anderson says:

    Please do the right thing and put these beautiful creatures on the endangered list to protect them from extinction in 30 years!

  4. Patricia Solari says:

    Shocking to me is the fact our own agency, our own government, is to blame for the destruction of the very créatures it is charged to protect. We have no right to throw stones at Botswana when our own house is all-glass!

  5. Shannon Maxwell says:

    Please stop allowing giraffes and other animals that are being killed and brought to the United States as trophies

  6. Dar says:

    Do your job

  7. Diane Ensign says:

    There is absolutely no sport or sportsmanship in Africa trophy hunting. With high powered rifles & scopes that can see great distances all they do is pull the trigger. This takes no skills, brain power or bravery. It is truly just sick cowardly murder of live creatures. God said to take care of His garden & to be good & wise stewards rather than rape & ruin our wildlife & nature. It’s truly sickening to know of such absolute waste of magnificent animals to the disgusting trophy hunters. It’s not anything close to shooting an animal to feed your family for survival which is a necessity & not a vulgar use like trophy hunters. It takes a ton more expertise to get a “perfect” shot through a camera with the light, composistion, depth of field & sharp clarity absolutely “perfect”. Then these cowardly trophy hunters could actually do something worthwhile rather than murder defenseless animals. They could still pay their fees to their guides & travel.

  8. Diane Ensign says:

    How can our USFWS do anything to help in Africa to stop the horrid practice of trophy hunting? Does the US have any real influence in foreign countries like Africa & the horrid China dog eating practices?

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