Gi­raffes move closer to fed­eral pro­tec­tions

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY MICHAEL BIESECKER

Years after in­ter­na­tional watch­dogs be­gan warn­ing that gi­raffes are slid­ing to­ward a silent ex­tinc­tion, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is tak­ing the first ten­ta­tive steps to­ward pro­tect­ing the world’s tallest land an­i­mal un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act.

The move, which ad­vo­cates say is long over­due, came after le­gal pres­sure from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice an­nounced Thurs­day that its ini­tial re­view has deter­mined there is “sub­stan­tial in­for­ma­tion that list­ing may be war­ranted” for gi­raffes. The find­ing, to be pub­lished in the Fed­eral Reg­is­ter, will be­gin a more in-depth re­view and pub­lic comment process that could lead to im­port re­stric­tions on hunt­ing tro­phies and body parts from gi­raffes, in­clud­ing hides and bones.

The gi­raffe pop­u­la­tion in Africa has de­clined by about 40 per­cent in the past three decades, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Union for the Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture.

The group, which des­ig­nates en­dan­gered species , added gi­raffes to its “Red List” in 2016 . It deter­mined that the species as a whole is “vul­ner­a­ble” to ex­tinc­tion and clas­si­fied two sub­species as “crit­i­cally en­dan­gered.”

There are now only about 68,000 ma­ture gi­raffes left in the wild, a num­ber fall­ing each year. That’s less than a quar­ter of the es­ti­mated num­ber of re­main­ing African ele­phants, which have been pro­tected un­der U.S. law as a threat­ened species since 1978.

Bi­ol­o­gists cite habi­tat loss, civil un­rest and poach­ing among the threats driv­ing the de­cline.

A coali­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal and con­ser­va­tion groups pe­ti­tioned the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice in early 2017 to pro­tect gi­raffes un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act. After the ad­min­is­tra­tion took no ac­tion for nearly two years, the groups sued in De­cem­ber.

“The United States can­not stand idly by and al­low thou­sands of U.S. im­ports of gi­raffe parts ev­ery year with­out any reg­u­la­tion while these an­i­mals are on a path to ex­tinc­tion,” said Anna Fros­tic, manag­ing wildlife at­tor­ney for the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States and Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional. “It is time that the United States stands tall for gi­raffes and gives this at-risk species the pro­tec­tion that it ur­gently needs.”

A spokes­woman for the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice de­clined to comment on Thurs­day.

Gi­raffes are of­ten hunted for meat in the 21 African coun­tries where they are still found. They are also in­creas­ingly tar­geted by wealthy tro­phy hun­ters as other big-game an­i­mals have be­come scarcer. More than 21,400 bone carv­ings, 3,000 skin pieces and 3,700 hunt­ing tro­phies were im­ported into the United States over the past decade.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has de­cried biggame hunt­ing as a “hor­ror show,” but his ad­min­is­tra­tion re­versed Oba­maera re­stric­tions on the im­por­ta­tion the hides, teeth and bones of ele­phants and li­ons.

JOAO SILVA NYT

Fed­eral wildlife of­fi­cials said they would of­fi­cially con­sider list­ing the gi­raffe as an en­dan­gered species.

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