As we reported yesterday, biodiversity is declining at a precipitous rate, according to a new report by scientists from across the globe produced for the United Nations. In an effort to save one of the most iconic species on the planet — the African giraffe — the Fish and Wildlife Service at the Department of Interior is considering listing them on the nation’s endangered species list, which would mean restrictions on their importation into the United States and would also make available small amounts of federal funding for giraffe conservation efforts. As a case study of the greater problem, the giraffe’s plight is telling. Numerous U.S. environmental groups, including The Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare, petitioned the Trump Administration for the listing, and it has taken two years for the Administration to near a decision, meanwhile giraffes grow closer to extinction.
- The groups’ petition states that the population globally of giraffes has declined about 40 percent in the last 30 years to approximately 97,000 remaining in the wild.
- The biggest threats to giraffes are the ones cited in the UN Report, namely habitat loss caused by the expansion of cities, farming, and timber harvest.
- In addition, poaching and legal hunting have in recent years contributed to the population declines.
- In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the giraffe on its “Red List” as vulnerable to extinction.
How much could the US endangered species listing help? A good deal. According to the groups’ petition, U.S. trade in giraffes is significant — between 2006 and 2015, 39,516 giraffe specimens, including dead and live animals, as well as their parts or derivatives, were imported into the United States, including 21,402 bone carvings, 3,008 skin pieces, and 3,744 hunting trophies.
Why This Matters: Human activity is causing a biodiversity loss crisis of massive proportions — and we need to turn the tide because our very existence depends on it. The plight of the giraffe is tragic, but as a symbol of the overall problem, it can play an important role in raising public awareness. Not to mention, that we here in the U.S. are a big part of the problem by fueling trade in this beautiful animal. So listing the giraffe as an endangered species in the U.S. is both a significant symbolic gesture to educate the public and important to demonstrate the U.S. as being a responsible steward of the planet.