Highlighting the need for global action to fight the silentextinction of giraffes, a body of scientific experts declared giraffes in Kenya and Tanzania —calledMasai giraffes —endangered.
Masai giraffes, one of nine giraffe subspecies, had long been considered a key population for the species. But yesterday’s assessment by the InternationalUnionfortheConservationofNature finds that these majestic animals are profoundly threatened by illegal hunting and land-use changes. The subspecies’ population has fallen by an estimated 49% to 51% inthepast 30 years.
Adam Peyman, wildlife programs and operations manager for Humane Society International said in a statement, “Masai giraffes have long had a robust wild population. An endangered assessment is an eye opener that signals the critical need for giraffe protections.”
Africa’s overall giraffe population has declined by up to 40% over the past 30years. The species was assessed as “vulnerable”toextinction by the IUCN in 2016. That assessment was confirmed in 2018, and Masai giraffe now join reticulated giraffes as endangered; two other giraffe subspecies are also critically endangered.
A proposal by several African nations to regulate giraffe trade will be discussed in a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), next month in Geneva. The proposal has been put forward by the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal, andissupportedbythe32AfricannationmembersoftheAfrican Elephant Coalition.
Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity said, “This shocking news about Masai giraffes is a call to action from prominent scientists. The international community needs to give giraffes the protection from exploitation that they so desperately need. We have to regulate the international giraffe trade or risk losing one of our planet’s most remarkable animals.”
While giraffe populations continue to drop, the species has become common in the wildlife trade. A Humane Society International report shows that the United States imported nearly 40,000 giraffe specimens between 2006 and 2015,in the form of hunting trophies, decoration items and knife handles, in addition to large shipments of live animals. The European Union is also a key consumer of giraffe products; online research detailed in the proposal records over 300giraffe products for sale by sellers based in seven EU countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The CITES listing proposal would regulate the giraffe trade for the first time.
With a recent international report having found that one million species face extinction due to human activity, it is critical to ensure that exploitation does not contribute to further declines, including that of giraffes.
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