WASHINGTON, April 19, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In response to recent scientific consensus on giraffes' vulnerability to extinction, five wildlife protection groups today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Earth's tallest land animal under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The legal petition, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Natural Resources Defense Council, seeks "endangered" status for the species. Facing mounting threats from habitat loss, being hunted for their meat, and the international trade in bone carvings and trophies, Africa's giraffe population has plunged almost 40 percent in the past 30 years and now stands at just over 97,000 individuals.
"Giraffes have been dying off silently for decades, and we have to act quickly before they disappear forever," said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "There are now fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa. It's time for the United States to step up and protect these extraordinary creatures."
New research recently prompted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to elevate the threat level of giraffes from ""least concern" to "vulnerable" on the "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". Yet giraffes have no protection under U.S. law. Species designated as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act receive strict protections, including a ban on most imports and sales. The United States plays a major role in the giraffe trade, importing more than 21,400 bone carving, 3,000 skin pieces and 3,700 hunting trophies over the past decade. Limiting U.S. import and trade will give giraffes important protections.
"Previously, the public was largely unaware that trophy hunters were targeting these majestic animals for trophies and selfies. In the past few years, several gruesome images of trophy hunters next to slain giraffe bodies have caused outrage, bringing this senseless killing to light," said Masha Kalinina, international trade policy specialist with the wildlife department of Humane Society International. "Currently, no U.S. or international law protects giraffes against overexploitation for trade. It is clearly time to change this. As the largest importer of trophies in the world, the role of the United States in the decline of this species is undeniable, and we must do our part to protect these animals."
Known for their six-foot-long necks, distinctive patterning and long eyelashes, giraffes have long captured the human imagination. New research recently revealed that giraffes live in complex societies, much like elephants, and have unique physiological traits, like the highest blood pressure of any land mammal.
"I was lucky enough to study giraffes in the wild in Kenya many years ago. Back then, they seemed plentiful, and we all just assumed that it would stay that way," said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "Giraffes are facing a crisis. We cannot let these amazing, regal and unique creatures go extinct – it would be a dramatic loss of diversity and beauty for our planet. This listing petition is rallying the world to help save the giraffe."
The IUCN currently recognizes one species of giraffes and nine subspecies: West African, Kordofan, Nubian, reticulated, Masai, Thornicroft's, Rothchild's, Angolan and South African. Today's petition seeks an endangered listing for the whole species.
"I can't – and won't – imagine Africa's landscape without giraffes," said Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC's wildlife trade initiative. "Losing one of the continent's iconic species would be an absolute travesty. Giving giraffes Endangered Species Act protections would be a giant step in the fight to save them from extinction."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to review and respond to the petition and determine whether a listing may be warranted.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations. For more than 20 25 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at hsi.org.
The Humane Society of the United States is the most effective animal protection organization, as rated by our peers. For more than 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We and our affiliates are the nation's largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 150,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our more than 60 years of transformational change for animals and people. HumaneSociety.org.
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook/IFAW and Twitter @action4ifaw.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
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SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare