Trophy hunters push giraffes toward extinction

Giraffes in South Africa Less than 100,000 giraffes remain in the wild (© RdR/Mathias Rittgerott)

Sep 30, 2018

The gentle giants of the African savanna are in trouble: a flourishing, unregulated market for giraffe skins and bones in the United States is decimating this iconic species.

US consumers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on giraffe products, including “trophies”, giraffe-leather cowboy boots and bible covers, giraffe-bone knife and gun handles, and giraffe-hide throw pillows. Undercover investigators of the US Humane Society identified 51 dealers across the United States who sell giraffe parts or products online and in stores – three of whom have criminal records for serious wildlife crimes such as rhino-horn trafficking.

The giraffe population has collapsed at such an alarming rate that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them as vulnerable since 2016. Over the past 30 years, their numbers have declined by 40 percent. The greatest threats giraffes currently face is habitat destruction and trophy hunting.

According to the study, US trophy hunters import an average of one dead giraffe a day. 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.”