Trump is no fan of trophy hunting — will he let giraffes go extinct?


Hop on Amazon, eBay or Etsy and you can get one for about $200 — items decorated with real bone from an African giraffe.

It’s a shockingly small price for the body part of an iconic animal that international experts say is spiraling toward extinction.

{mosads}Yet, no U.S. law prohibits such transactions. Even though Africa’s giraffe populations have dropped nearly 40 percent in recent decades, these gentle giants haven’t joined elephants in getting protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

And the Trump administration seems determined to keep it that way.

In April 2017, conservation groups, including mine, filed a petition urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider listing giraffes under the Act.

More than 19 months later, our urgent request still languishes in bureaucratic limbo. The wildlife service, overseen by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, hasn’t even taken the first step toward protecting these increasingly imperiled animals.

We sued Zinke over this illegal delay. But it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to get federal officials to help prevent one of the world’s most cherished creatures from disappearing forever.

It’s time for President Trump himself to get involved. He shouldn’t let Zinke — a trophy hunter whose Interior Department has an abysmal record of failing to protect imperiled animals — sink this vital safeguard for giraffes.

There’s not much time left. Giraffes capture our imaginations from childhood on, but many people don’t realize how few are left in the wild.

Indeed, their outlook seems to get bleaker by the month. In November, experts with the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated their assessment of Africa’s giraffes to classify two subspecies as “critically endangered.”

Africa now has fewer giraffes than elephants. Yet, giraffe bones are becoming the new ivory — and the United States is heavily implicated in this deadly international trade.

It’s become a fad to use giraffe bones to decorate items like pistols and knives. Giraffe skins, meanwhile, are being employed for everything from boots to bible covers and barstools, according to a Humane Society International investigation.

Our country imports about one giraffe hunting trophy a day — mostly heads atop the animals’ graceful, long necks. It imports thousands of giraffe bones every year.

In short, the United States is an important part of the problem facing giraffes, and Endangered Species Act protection for giraffes would help us be part of the solution.

At last federal officials would have the power to better track and curb imports of bones, trophies and other body parts.  

Listing giraffes would also increase funding for conservation efforts in Africa, and that’s crucial. The species is gravely imperiled by habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting for meat.

Maybe it seems unrealistic to expect Trump to force his interior secretary to act. After all, the president’s sons have been infamously photographed clutching hunting trophies, ranging from an amputated elephant tail to a leopard and an ungulate’s horns.

But Trump himself has condemned the practice: “My sons love hunting, I don’t,” he has tweeted. He seems to have forced Zinke to make some changes to elephant and lion trophy imports, though imports still continue.

Certainly, protecting Africa’s magnificent animals from casual slaughter seems to be one of the only conservation issues Trump has even bothered to tweet about. Many of the president’s most fervent supporters — from Laura Ingraham to Michael Savage — oppose trophy hunting and back wildlife protections.

And there are signs that his broader conservative base wants stronger environmental action. In a post-midterm poll by the Pew Research Center, just 41 percent of Republicans said Trump has better approaches than congressional Democrats when it comes to the environment.

One thing is for sure: Africa’s giraffes are circling the drain. They desperately need the lifeline of the Endangered Species Act.

If future generations of children know giraffes only as toys — and not the long-necked, living icons of Africa — Trump and Zinke will bear a good deal of the blame.

Tanya Sanerib is the legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s international program.


Tags Conservation Don Jr. Donald Trump Donald Trump Eric Trump giraffe Ryan Zinke Tanya Sanerib Trophy hunting

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