Animal conservation groups unite to urge the European Union to protect giraffes from wildlife trade

Humane Society International / Europe


BRUSSELS—International animal conservation and protection organisations — the Born Free Foundation, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Pro Wildlife, Animal Defenders International, and the National Resource Defense Council — are calling on European Union (EU) Member States to support a proposal by African nations to protect the imperiled giraffe from international trade that has contributed to the species’ decline by 40 percent in the past 30 years. The Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal want giraffes listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but they need the support of the EU’s voting bloc, without which the proposal is likely to fail.

The six nations have the backing of fellow members of the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), a consortium of 32 African countries, which released a declaration stating its support for the proposal last month, in recognition of the steep decline in giraffe populations.

Scientists have labeled the plight of giraffes a “silent extinction” due to the lack of attention and support the species is receiving, so the animal groups are urging the European Union to stand in solidarity with the 32 African countries. Winning the support of the EU Member States is absolutely critical for the giraffe proposal to succeed, but as yet a number of MSs look minded to oppose. EU representatives are due to meet and agree their position on 28th March, so the animal groups are increasing their call for the EU to stand in solidarity with the 32 African nations that want to see the giraffe proposal pushed through.

Daniela Freyer from Pro Wildlife, said: “We call on the EU to join the majority of African countries in their efforts to better protect giraffes. The species is endangered, populations have plummeted to less than 100,000 animals and we must ensure that over-exploitation for international trade is not fueling declines.”

While giraffe populations continue to wane, 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, such as hunting trophies, decoration items, and knife handles, in addition to large shipments of live animals. The EU is also a key consumer of giraffe products; online research detailed in the proposal records over 300 giraffe products for sale by sellers based in seven European Union countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The proposal, to be voted on at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in May, seeks to provide giraffes with protections to bring under control international trade in the currently unprotected species. An Appendix II listing would require exporting countries to prove that giraffe specimens were legally obtained and that the export is not detrimental to the survival of the species. Additionally, the listing would provide researchers and governments with important data to track the trade in giraffes throughout the world.

Adam Peyman wildlife programs and operations manager for Humane Society International, said: “The giraffe is going quietly extinct as they are slaughtered for trophies and their body parts used for trinkets. As there are currently no regulations on trade in giraffes, a CITES listing would provide critical measures to ensure giraffes are not pushed to the brink of extinction, and the EU’s vote holds the key to its success.”

The six organisations and the 30 African countries also strongly encourage CITES Parties, the CITES Secretariat, inter-governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations to support the proposal.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “We must act now to prevent the further decline of this iconic species. African nations need our help to protect threatened giraffe populations, and we urge the EU to step up and support this important measure, before it’s too late.”

Notes to Editors:

  • The US, the only country for which importing data is available, imported a total of 39,516 giraffe specimens between 2006 and 2015, some of these originating in countries where giraffe populations are Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.
  • The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 23 May to 3 June.
  • Members of the Africa Elephant Coalition, which announced support for the giraffe proposal, include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Togo, and Uganda.
  • Watch a short awareness video on the giraffe’s silent extinction here.

Media contacts:

Humane Society International (UK): Wendy Higgins, whiggins@hsi.org +44 (0) 7989 972 423