By Elly Pepper, Natural Resources Defense Council
Today NRDC and our partners sent a Notice of Intent letter (NOI) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) asking it to respond to our petition to list giraffes as an endangered species. If they don’t respond within 60 days, we’ll sue the Trump administration.
As you might recall, we joined the Center for Biological Diversity, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International to send a petition to FWS on April 19, 2017 asking it to list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the ESA, the Service had 90 days from that date to determine whether the listing “may be warranted” and, if so, another 9 months to determine whether the listing “is warranted.”
You may not be surprised to learn that the administration failed to make both the 90-day and the 12-month finding. Perhaps because giraffes are a favorite target for trophy hunters, which the Trump administration seems intent on appeasing.
As with many imperiled species, there is no time to waste when it comes to giraffes. They are undergoing a “silent extinction,” and have declined by 40% over the past 30 years. In fact, there are fewer giraffes left on this planet than African elephants—less than 100,000 remain.
The causes of giraffe decline include habitat loss, commercial overutilization, and severe poaching. Giraffes have experienced severe habitat loss and fragmentation due to expanding human populations and increased land use activities such as ranching and mining. Civil unrest as well as poaching for bushmeat, bones, tail hair, and other parts contribute to giraffe mortality.
Giraffes are also hunted both legally and illegally for sport and for their parts and products. And the international trade in giraffe parts is growing, with the United States serving as a major importer of giraffe bone carvings (21,402), skin pieces (3,008), and hunting trophies (3,744) over the past decade.
The administration must follow the law and determine whether giraffes deserve protection. We certainly think they do, and we eagerly await the Service’s answer. If they continue to ignore us and the dire situation for giraffes, we’ll have no choice but to sue.