Giraffes Could Be Placed on Federal Endangered Species List

Giraffes face shrinking habitat, poachers and hunters.

The world's tallest mammal is closer to being placed on the endangered list.

According to the New York Times, federal wildlife officials are considering placing giraffes on the list due to sharply declining populations and a growing domestic market for giraffe products .

Tim Hutton, the giraffe and ungulate keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, says there has been a 40 percent decrease in the global giraffe population since 1985, and that there are just 100,000 left in the wild today. That includes just 65,000 giraffes who are mature adults capable of breeding.

There are fewer than 100,000 giraffes remaining in the wild. Photo courtesy Jorge S Pinheiro.

The primary danger for giraffes is deforestation, with more of the African continent being used for agriculture, construction and mining. Additionally, giraffes are threatened by poachers and hunters, who sell their meat, hides and tails as trophies.

The Humane Society International says that between 2006 and 2015, more than 40,000 giraffe parts were imported in the United States, often made into expensive pillows, boots, knife handles, Bible covers and other trinkets.

"Any exotic animals has value to someone, whether that value is coming from a good place or bad place," Hutton said.

The New York Times reports conversations groups have petitioned the Trump Administration for two years to designate giraffes as endangered. That designation would place restrictions on their import into the United States and make federal funding available for conservation efforts.

Education and conservation efforts are critical to protecting giraffes. Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Hutton says the Pittsburgh Zoo is focused on education about the massive mammals, making sure people understand how important it is to protect giraffes in their own ecosystems. The Zoo currently has two adult giraffes; one male and one female.

Hutton said that if people want to help giraffes, the most important thing they can do is spread awareness. Additionally, there are several reputable organizations people can support, including the Giraffe Conservation Fund and Humane Society International. These organizations help support reforestation efforts and educate local populations on sustainable agriculture practices that don't threaten giraffes' habitats.

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