Groups petition U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect giraffes and stop the sale of giraffe bones and skins
WASHINGTON—A shocking undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International found giraffe parts and products sold online and in stores by at least 51 dealers across the United States. An investigator went undercover in 21 stores in California, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, as well as at the Dallas Safari Club expo, where many more sellers exhibited.
Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and president of Humane Society International, said, “Purchasing giraffe parts puts the entire species at risk. The giraffe is going quietly extinct. With the wild population at just under 100,000, there are now fewer than one third the number of giraffes in Africa than elephants.”
Block notes that killing giraffes for trophies, and using their parts for fashion, knife handles, home décor and trinkets not only shows a complete disregard for this iconic species, but also adds to the major threats causing the species to decline by 40 percent in the past 30 years.
“We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the giraffe as endangered under the Endangered Species Act to help combat this trade and reduce population declines before it’s too late,” she said.
Giraffe parts are considered by consumers to be a ‘new exotic’ popular in part as an alternative to ivory and other products for which regulations have tightened. The HSUS/HSI investigation reveals a wide variety of giraffe parts and products easily available through wholesalers and retailers in the United States, including a giraffe taxidermy ($8,000), a custom-made giraffe jacket ($5,500), a full giraffe hide ($4,500), a giraffe hide rug ($3,000), a giraffe skull ($500), a knife with a giraffe bone handle ($450), a giraffe leather Bible cover ($400), a giraffe tail hair bracelet ($10) and a giraffe foot ($75).
Some sellers told investigators that they had received giraffe parts from trophy hunters. Several promised that new giraffe trophies were arriving soon and that they were taking custom orders for products, and others falsely claimed that giraffes were dangerous and needed to be killed to protect African villages.
On average, more than one giraffe per day is imported into the U.S. by American trophy hunters. Giraffes are targeted so hunters can bring home exotic trophies, and the African hunting outfitters who arrange these hunts sell the leftover giraffe parts: skin, bones, feet and tail. The giraffe parts and products are imported into the U.S. and sold by knife makers, purveyors of wildlife curios, bootmakers and others. Increased demand in the U.S. fuels more killing of this already vulnerable species.
U.S. law does not prohibit the trade in giraffe parts. In April 2017, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and conservation partner groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list giraffes as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. An ESA listing would restrict the import, export and sale of giraffe specimens in the U.S.
Demand for giraffe parts can fuel poaching and trophy hunting, further decreasing giraffe populations already facing severe threats from habitat loss and civil unrest.
In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature elevated the threat status of giraffes from “least concern” to “vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species. Among the nine subspecies, two are deemed “endangered.”
From 2006 to 2015, the U.S. imported approximately 40,000 giraffe parts and products, mostly for commercial purposes. Among these imports were about 21,000 giraffe bone carvings, nearly 4,000 whole raw bones, about 3,000 skin pieces, almost 2,000 raw bone pieces and more than 700 intact skins.
Featured image: Giraffe in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Image credit: Sumarie Slabber, CC BY-SA 3.0