Giraffes move closer to endangered species protection

Giraffes and zebras congregate in 2018 in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. An international conference on endangered species agreed Thursday to protect giraffes.

GENEVA (AP) — Nations around the world moved Thursday to protect giraffes as an endangered species for the first time, drawing praise from conservationists and scowls from some sub-Saharan African nations.

Thursday’s vote by a key committee at the World Wildlife Conference known as CITES paves the way for the measure’s likely approval by its plenary next week.

The plan would regulate world trade in giraffe parts, including hides, bone carvings and meat, while stopping short of a full ban. It passed 106-21 with seven abstentions.

“So many people are so familiar with giraffes that they think they’re abundant,” said Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “And in Southern Africa, they may be doing OK, but giraffes are critically endangered.”

Lieberman said giraffes were particularly at risk in parts of West, Central and East Africa.

The Wildlife Conservation Society said it was concerned about the multiple threats to giraffes that have already resulted in population decline, citing habitat loss, droughts worsened by climate change, and the illegal killings and trade in giraffe body parts.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, hailed the move, noting that giraffes are a vulnerable species facing habitat loss and population decline. A key African conservationist said it could help reverse drops in giraffe populations, as the move would help better track numbers of giraffes.

“The giraffe has experienced over 40% decline in the last 30 years,” said Maina Philip Muruthi of the African Wildlife Foundation.

Still, not all African countries supported the move.

“We see no reason as to why we should support this decision, because Tanzania has a stable and increasing population of giraffes,” said Maurus Msuha, director of wildlife at the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. “Over 50% of our giraffe population is within the Serengeti ecosystem, which is well protected.”

CITES says the population of wild giraffes is actually much smaller than that of wild African elephants.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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