Geneva, Switzerland hosted the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) on the 22nd of August 2019. This event marked a major step towards protecting giraffes, the world’s tallest mammals, from unregulated trade.
The last three decades have witnessed a massive decline in the number of giraffes by up to 40%. The decrease in the population of giraffes is brought about by factors such as international trade in their parts, illegal hunting, civil unrest and habitat loss.
While others kill giraffes illegally to get bush meat, others target their bones, skin, nail and hair. These body parts are useful while making various things such as bone carvings, trophies, jewelry and purses. The international trading of these items is a major cause of the decrease in population of giraffes.
Six African countries: Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal, proposed the Appendix II listing to curb it. This got overwhelming support during the conference in Geneva. 106 countries voted in support of it, 21 against it and there were 7 abstentions. This means that giraffes will now be in the list of species whose trade needs to be controlled.
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy, and head of IFAW’s delegations at CITES gladly received the decision.
“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.”
“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.”
“Illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, coupled with habitat loss and other human-made threats, has decimated many species so that they are now at a tipping point for future survival. It is vital that over the next few days countries come together to do all they can to protect some of our most vulnerable species.”
The Appendix II listing, proposed by the mentioned African countries, cannot entirely stop the trade in giraffe parts. However, it will guarantee that the trade does not lead to more deterioration in the population of giraffes. This will yield global scale data that could have never existed.
Previously, there was a vote to restrict the implementation of the protection to only sub-species outside of Southern Africa. This, however, did not succeed since it did not reach the necessary number of votes.
In the past, giraffes existed in a larger part of the semi-arid Savannah and Savannah Woodlands of Africa. It is unfortunate that they now found only south of the Sahara is only a fraction of what they used to occupy. This is due to the increase in the human population and changes in the use of land.
The final decision in this meeting will be of benefit to other animals in danger because poachers target their body parts for trade as well.