WASHINGTON—Conservation groups today sued the Trump administration for its failure to consider protections for Africa’s rapidly dwindling giraffe population under the Endangered Species Act.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C, comes weeks after the International Union for the Conservation of Nature updated its assessment of Africa’s giraffes reaffirming the species is “vulnerable” to extinction and classifying two subspecies as “critically endangered.”
The suit challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to act on an April 2017 petition seeking Endangered Species Act protections for giraffes. The agency was required to respond within 90 days, but 19 months have passed without any action by the Service.
“Giraffes capture our imaginations beginning in childhood, but many people don’t realize how few are left in the wild,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of throwing these majestic animals a lifeline under the Endangered Species Act, Trump officials are twiddling their thumbs. Trump will be to blame if future generations know giraffes only as toys and not the long-necked icons of Africa.”
Fewer than 100,000 giraffes remain in the wild, and the population dropped nearly 40 percent over the past three decades. The species is gravely imperiled by habitat loss, civil unrest, and illegal hunting for meat, and is also threatened by the international trade in bone carvings, skins and trophies.
Anna Frostic, managing wildlife attorney for the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, said, “The United States cannot stand idly by and allow thousands of U.S. imports of giraffe parts every year without any regulation while these animals are on a path to extinction. It is time that the United States stands tall for giraffes and gives this at-risk species the protection that it urgently needs.”
Endangered Species Act protection would help track and curb imports of giraffe bones, trophies and other parts and increase funding for conservation efforts in Africa. On average, the U.S. imports more than one giraffe hunting trophy a day and the country imported more than 21,400 giraffe bone carvings between 2006 to 2015.
“The Trump administration would rather allow its rich donors to mount giraffe trophies on their walls than protect giraffes,” said Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC’s Wildlife Trade Initiative. “Giraffes are headed toward extinction, in part due to our country’s importation of giraffe parts and trophies. It’s shameful — though unsurprising — that the Interior Department has refused to protect them under the Endangered Species Act and I hope the courts will agree.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., by the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States, and Natural Resources Defense Council. Read the filing.