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Conservation groups to sue Trump administration, seeking giraffe protections

Conservation groups to sue Trump administration, seeking giraffe protections
© Getty Images

Conservation groups are planning to sue the Trump administration in order to spur endangered species protections for giraffes.

With as few as 69,000 adult giraffes remaining in the wild, environmentalists have filed multiple suits over the last few years to push the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect the species, something they say will inhibit trade for hunting trophies.

But after an April 2019 memo noting threats to the population, FWS has surpassed the one-year deadline to make a determination on whether to protect the species.

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“As giraffe populations plummet, these extraordinary creatures desperately need the Endangered Species Act’s sturdy shield. But three years after we petitioned for protections, federal officials are still stalling on safeguards for everyone’s favorite long-necked mammal,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The notice of intent to sue filed by the center gives the agency 60 days to pursue protections for giraffes.

In its April memo last year, the service said it would weigh whether to protect giraffes after receiving substantial information on “potential threats associated with development, agriculture and mining. Other threats identified by the petition that the Service will seek to verify include commercial trade, recreational hunting, poaching, disease, small populations and genetic isolation.”

The announcement was followed by another effort to protect giraffes in August of last year after the U.S. signed on to a measure requiring countries to issue export permits ensuring any giraffe hide or bones are legally acquired and that the trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild giraffes. The multilateral trade agreement will regulate and track, but not halt or prohibit, trade in giraffes and hunting trophies. 

FWS never followed through on its April memo, though, leaving the U.S. a destination for giraffe hunting trophies that would become more limited if the species were protected.

“We have pretty alarming import of giraffe parts — skin and bones and bone carvings and all sorts of crazy stuff, so to say habitat loss is the only thing driving giraffes toward extinction just isn't true,” Sanerib said. 

“The U.S. could play an essential role if we list them under the Endangered Species Act.”

Last year the Trump administration dramatically rolled back the Endangered Species Act.