SCI opposes a proposed ESA listing of giraffes because it is a bad bargain for the giraffe.
Safari Club International opposes the listing of giraffes under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Not only is listing unnecessary, but it would likely harm giraffe populations in the countries where giraffes are thriving, and which rely on regulated hunting to fund their national conservation programs.
In response to petitions filed by anti-hunting groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has made a finding that the listing of giraffe subspecies under the ESA is potentially warranted. This means that the FWS is willing to consider—but has not yet decided—whether listing is appropriate.
An ESA listing simply would not benefit the giraffe. The ESA is a U.S. law. It provides a host of protections for domestic species, including habitat protections and recovery planning. But the ESA does not and cannot extend these same protections to foreign species. For this reason, a recent study found no evidence that listing foreign species under the ESA improves their population status. The authors instead concluded that the benefits of listing foreign species under the ESA are “severely limited” while the costs are quite high.
Further, listing giraffes will likely do them harm. Giraffe populations are thriving in the countries where the species is legally hunted. Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe account for 98% of giraffe hunting trophies imported into the U.S. and, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, giraffe populations in these countries have more than doubled (from a combined 23,000 to nearly 52,000) since the 1970s. Giraffes in these countries are doing significantly better than those inhabiting countries where giraffe hunting is not permitted.
Why the difference? Countries like Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe rely on the revenues and incentives from regulated hunting to protect extensive tracts of habitat, fund anti-poaching and improve rural community livelihoods. Many species, including giraffes, benefit from this investment in conservation. An ESA listing, however, allows the FWS to potentially impose restrictions or even prohibit the import of lawfully-hunted giraffe trophies. These measures would reduce U.S. hunters’ willingness to pay top-dollar for giraffe hunts.
Without offering anything in return, an ESA listing could reduce the revenues and incentives currently being generated by hunting. That means reduced habitat protection, less funding for anti-poaching and fewer benefits for the rural people who live side-by-side with giraffes and other wildlife. SCI opposes the proposed listing because it is a bad bargain for the giraffe.