Feds Sued for Ignoring Request to Protect African Giraffes

WASHINGTON (CN) – Four conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing the Trump administration of failing to protect Africa’s vanishing giraffe population under the Endangered Species Act.

(Tanya Sanerib/Center for Biological Diversity)

The suit comes on the tail of an announcement by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature a few weeks ago calling the species is “vulnerable” to extinction, with two of its subspecies already meeting the classification of “critically endangered.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, Humane Society of the United States and Natural Resources Defense Council say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to respond to an April 2017 petition that sought giraffe protection under the Endangered Species Act. Although the deadline to respond to petitions is 90 days, the conservation groups say they never received a response at all.

The designation the groups seek would make it more difficult to import giraffe bones and hunting trophies into the United States and increase funding for conservation efforts in Africa. Humane Society International estimates the United States has imported more than 21,400 giraffe-bone carvings between 2006 and 2015.

A spokesperson from the Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Thursday that many people don’t realize how few giraffes are left in the wild. There are less than 100,000 currently, and the population has declined by 40 percent in the last 30 years.

“Instead of throwing these unique animals a lifeline under the Endangered Species Act, Trump officials are twiddling their thumbs,” Sanerib said. “Trump will be to blame if future generations know giraffes only as toys and not the long-necked icons of Africa.”

Elly Pepper, deputy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Wildlife Trade Initiative, took aim at trophy hunting in a statement.

“The Trump administration would rather allow its rich donors to mount giraffe trophies on their walls than protect giraffes,” Pepper said. “Giraffes are headed toward extinction, in part due to our country’s importation of giraffe parts and trophies. It’s shameful – though unsurprising – that the Interior Department has refused to protect them under the Endangered Species Act, and I hope the courts will agree.”

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