HSUS petition is a threat to giraffe populations, not hunting
© Getty Images

Last week, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) joined forces with fellow travelers in the  animal rights movement — the Center for Biological Diversity, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Natural Resources Defense Council — to file a petition with the Department of the Interior seeking “endangered” status for all giraffes under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  

While we agree that many giraffe populations are in trouble, we disagree with the idea that this problem can be solved by an ESA designation. The basis of the petition’s argument lies in false data and unsupportable generalizations that equate the legal hunting of certain giraffe species and populations with illegal poaching.

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If HSUS and the other groups had taken the time to review the real data, they would have discovered that populations where giraffes are legally hunted are actually increasing.  In fact, they have grown by up to 167 percent according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. On the other hand, giraffe populations where hunting is illegal, and has been illegal for decades, have declined by up to 97 percent. The allegation that legal hunting is responsible for giraffe population decline is an outright lie—and the data backs that up.

 

If legal hunting is the sole cause of giraffe population decline, HSUS and its ilk must explain how the reticulated giraffe population has declined from an estimated 36,000-47,750 to its current level of 8,661 in Kenya, where hunting has not been allowed since 1978? Or, they can explain how the Angolan giraffe population has grown by 161 percent when the species is legally hunted on a sustainable basis.

When you look at the real data, you must then ask the question, if it’s not legal hunting that is contributing to the decline in certain giraffe populations, what is? The answer is simple according to IUCN, “Four major threats to Giraffes can be identified, although the severity and presence of these threats varies by region and population: (1) habitat loss (through deforestation, land use conversion, expansion of agricultural activities, and human population growth) (2) civil unrest (ethnic violence, rebel militias, paramilitary, and military operations), (3) poaching and (4) ecological changes (mining activity, habitat conversion to agriculture, climate-induced processes).”   

These are serious threats that can and should be stopped — but they will not be affected by a faraway “endangered” listing for giraffes.  In fact, many of these problems have the potential to be stopped by legal hunting in Africa, the very thing the HSUS petition seeks to prohibit.

In a recent study commissioned by the Safari Club International Foundation, it was determined that the annual economic impact of hunting-related tourism in 8 countries in Africa (Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) contributes $426 million to GDP and $326 million in direct spending, supporting over 53,000 jobs.

Hunting-related tourism also contributes to 1.4 million square kilometers of land being conserved for hunting in Africa. That is more than all formally protected areas on the continent combined, exceeding the total national park area by 22 percent. Hunting changes attitudes for local communities and gives wildlife a positive value, providing incentives against poaching and for conservation of valuable land.

Another study conducted by IUCN and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) also found that legal, regulated and well-managed hunting generates critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private, and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and carry out conservation actions, including anti-poaching interventions. Legal hunting can return much needed income, jobs, and important economic and social benefits to indigenous and local communities where these benefits are often scarce.

Based on this data, it is clear that the HSUS petition will not stop the real current threat to giraffe populations.  It will only affect the legal and regulated giraffe hunting that is responsible for many significant contributions to local communities and conservation — contributions that are responsible for the population increase of many giraffe species across Africa.

Fortunately, we have a new administration that understands the economic benefits of legal, regulated hunting.  We urge Secretary Zinke and his staff at the Department of the Interior to deny this request for an unwarranted listing, and instead choose to protect giraffe populations by supporting the time-proven science behind wildlife conservation, in which legal regulated hunting plays a large part.  

Larry Higgins is the President of Safari Club International (SCI). SCI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, education of the people, and the protection of hunters’ rights.


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