Wildlife & Biodiversity

CITES CoP 2019: Giraffes accorded protection from trade for the first time

The giraffe has been placed in Appendix II of CITES, which places prohibitions on uncontrolled trade in a species

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 22 August 2019
Three giraffes in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya. The giraffe was included in Appendix II of CITES on August 22. Photo: Getty Images

Giraffes, those tall, stately and graceful animals of Africa’s savannahs, have been accorded protection from unregulated trade as the world finally woke up to their ‘silent extinction’.

On August 22, 2019, the Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES in Geneva passed a resolution to place the giraffe in Appendix II of CITES.

The Appendix II listing was proposed by Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It was passed by 106 votes in support, with 21 votes against and seven abstentions.

An earlier vote on limiting the protection to apply only to sub-species outside of Southern Africa failed to achieve the required number of votes to pass.

“Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival,” notes the CITES website.

“This is a big conservation win for giraffes. It was vital that this species was listed by CITES because up to now it has been impossible to say for certain how much of the giraffe’s huge population decline is due to trade,” Matt Collis, director, International Policy, International Fund for Animal Welfare or IFAW was quoted as saying in a press release.

“We do know it is a significant factor though as the only country that currently collects data on trade in giraffes, the United States, has reported almost 40,000 giraffe items traded in a decade. Listing on Appendix II is an important step in regulating trade in giraffes, preventing any illegal and unsustainable trade and helping to safeguard this iconic species for future generations,” he added.

Giraffes once ranged over much of the semi-arid savannah and savannah woodlands of Africa. But their numbers have plummeted dramatically — by up to 40 per cent over the last 30 years — due to threats including international trade in their parts, as well as habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting.

Today, they are found only south of the Sahara, and occupy only a fraction of their historic range as a result of human population expansion and changes in land use.

While giraffes fall prey to poaching for bushmeat, bones, skin and tail hair, there is also a significant amount of international trade in their bone carvings and trophies.

There is currently only one recognised species of giraffe, with nine sub-species. They have been listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Species Red List since 2016, with some sub-species classified as ‘endangered’’ or ‘critically endangered’.

Five of the nine sub-species have only a small wild population, while four have a decreasing population trend. All are affected by trade.

While the Appendix II listing will not stop all trade in giraffe parts, it will ensure this is not contributing to further population declines and provide global scale data that could not otherwise be obtained, the press release stated further.

The CoP18 of CITES will meet in Geneva until August 28.

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