Giraffes Are in Trouble—the U.S. Endangered Species Act Can Help

The African mammal’s population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000

Credit: John Hilliard Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.The Conversation

On April 19 of this year, five major wildlife protection groups petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as an endangered species. As the petition asserted, “the giraffe has suffered a major reduction in population size across its range primarily due to habitat loss, commercial overutilization, and severe poaching, and such decline continues unabated.”

If the Fish and Wildlife Service agrees to list the giraffe, a set of legal tools will become available to protect this iconic species. But how would listing in the U.S. help this African mammal, whose population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000?


While extinction can be a natural process, the current rate of extinction is anything but. Scientists estimate that at least 99 out of 100 species extinctions in the world today are the result of human action. Although people rarely intend to drive species into oblivion, as with the giraffe, they do so through the destruction of habitat, poaching and legal hunting. As the petition notes, “[g]iraffes once occupied much of the savanna and savanna woodlands of Africa…. [It] has undergone a 36 to 40 percent population decline over the past 30 years.”

More than a century ago, scientists began to notice the disappearance of once prominent species around the world. TheAmerican passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Great Auk—once well-established in North America—disappeared. Other species like the American bison and many kinds of whales had once played central roles in important ecosystems but had been reduced to small remnant populations.

The existence of species is important to people for many reasons. Sometimes species provide clues for the development of medicines. Often they play a fundamental role in maintaining the functioning of ecosystems on which people depend. As Aldo Leopold—perhaps America’s most famous naturalist—noted,

“If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

What would you say to a child who saw a giraffe in a book and asked where giraffes lived? Would you be comfortable saying they’re all gone?


In 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began tracking the conservation status of species on its “Red List.” Although the IUCN provides information only about the status of species, this is the first step in helping to limit extinction because it allows conservation efforts to be directed where they’re most needed.

A few years later in the United States, the federal government began keeping an official list of species in danger of extinction—what we call endangered species—and species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future—threatened species.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, goes further than just identifying imperiled species. Under its terms, listed species are protected from actions “authorized, funded or carried out” by the federal government that may jeopardize their continued existence or adversely affect their essential habitat. Species members are also protected from direct harm by any person. Commerce in species protected by the ESA is generally a crime.

The purpose of the ESA is the “conservation” of protected species. In practice, that means bringing the species back to the point where it no longer requires the protection of the ESA. The law’s goal is not to preserve tiny populations on the brink of extinction but to recover species populations that are resilient enough to survive the bad luck which is so often part of living on the planet.

Listing is the public, administrative process whereby a species can become entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. It centers around one question: Is this creature or plant in danger of extinction? At the listing stage, the federal government can consider only scientific evidence in making its decision. Anyone can initiate the listing process via petition.

Evidence suggests the ESA works. A recent report in the Endangered Species Bulletin noted that of the 78 species first listed under the federal precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only four have been officially declared extinct after half a century. Many others, such as the California condor, the grizzly bear and the whooping crane, have seen remarkable recovery progress. Some, including the bald eagle, have even been removed from the list.

There are now 1,382 species of animals listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered; 711 live largely within the borders of the United States. For these species, the federal Endangered Species Act can help preserve habitat, require “consultation” on projects that need federal approval and make most hunting illegal.


The giraffe, of course, is not native to the United States. How would ESA listing help it? The habitat destruction and overharvesting that threaten the giraffe aren’t happening within U.S. borders.

The answer lies in the role the United States plays in buying and selling giraffe parts. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service database, over the past decade Americans imported more than 21,000 giraffe bone carvings, more than 3,000 skin pieces and 3,744 hunting trophies. If many people want giraffe parts, the demand can be too high for survival of the species. Heightened demand for giraffe products can encourage people to hunt illegally—for example, taking more giraffes than limits allow or hunting in places where it is not permitted.

An international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), known by its acronym, CITES, also addresses this problem. Countries that are party to the treaty meet periodically to list species that are threatened due to international trade. The treaty has two appendices for listing species: Appendix I results in an almost complete ban on commercial international trade; Appendix II requires all international trade in that species be monitored and subject to permits. The giraffe is not currently listed on either of the CITES appendices, but this does not prevent individual countries—such as the United States—from deciding to limit imports.

Around the world, markets for species parts are sometimes driven by traditional uses—things like carving ivory or using certain animal parts in traditional medicines. New uses fuel demand too; think of newly wealthy businessmen in Vietnam consuming rhino horn mixed with water or alcohol to show how rich they are. Sometimes, the two can converge: An increase in consumption of shark fin soup has been tied to a traditional celebration dish being served by more people as China’s middle class grew.

Listing on the ESA would require the federal government to limit imports of giraffe parts into the United States and would therefore help curtail global demand. The ESA cannot ensure habitat protection or require other countries to take affirmative conservation action to protect the giraffe. But listing in the U.S. would limit one important threat in which Americans do play a role.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


David Attenborough hits out at big game hunters after 12-year-old admits to trophy hunting


It was the picture which disgusted the world, the grinning face of a 12-year-old girl cuddling the giraffe she had just shot and killed for fun.

While most her age would be only too pleased to see these creatures running wild, sweet-faced Aryanna Gourdin guns them down for her trophy-hunting album.

Our exclusive story sickened animal lovers around the globe, none more so than Sir David Attenborough, who has devoted decades to conservation.

The TV legend today calls trophy hunting “incomprehensible”.

He says: “It’s what people did in the 19th century. One would’ve thought people would’ve gotten over that.”


Father of 12-year-old big game trophy hunter Aryanna Gourdin is a convicted poacher

The father of a 12-year-old big game trophy hunter making headlines around the world is a convicted poacher.

Aryanna Gourdin and her father Eli sparked outrage after photos of her rejoicing over the carcass of a giraffe she shot dead were published.

He has been accused of “brainwashing” her and using her in a social media campaign to promote their bloodthirsty exploits in the name of conservation.

They appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain last week wearing “stand up to anti-hunter bullying” after the Mirror highlighted the issue in a front page story.

Eli has been convicted of “wanton destruction of protected wildlife” which he was found guilty of in 2010.

Giraffe girl
Aryanna Gourdin with a giraffe she has hunted

In Utah where they live the crime relates to illegally killing big game such as deer, elk, moose and bison.

He also has 15 other convictions related to protected wildlife for which he was jailed in 2000. These include eight counts of transporting and selling protected wildlife.

Dr Pieter Kat of the Charity Lion Aid, said: “Despite breaking conservation laws this man has the audacity to loudly proclaim that hunting is conservation.

Giraffe girl
Aryanna Gourdin poses next to one of her kills


Footage of Rebecca Francis killing a giraffe in Africa


Apr 20, 2015 — This video shows Rebecca Francis hunting the giraffe from the picture. Although she made a rebuttal to Ricky Gervais last week, the video shows just had deceptive she was being.

Footage of Rebecca Francis killing a giraffe in Africa
Here is footage of the hunt in which Rebecca Francis kills a giraffe with a bow and arrow in Africa which has caused outrage. Francis like all trophy hunters has claimed she killed the animal to feed local…

“You know that feeling of joy someone gets when they put an arrow through a giraffe’s eye…..No, me neither”*

*Recent Tweet by Ricky Gervis


Rebecca Francis has been famous in hunting circles since 2010, when the photogenic Utah native won the obscure reality show “Extreme Huntress.”

But now she’s famous in the wider world as well, thanks to comedian Ricky Gervais.

Last week, Gervais, a dedicated animal-rights activist with more than 7 million Twitter followers, came upon a photo of Francis posing next to a giraffe she had just killed, a big smile spread across her face. The result: a tweet heard ’round the world.


“What must’ve happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?”

Ricky Gervais         @rickygervais

People outraged by Francis’ apparently cavalier attitude toward killing wildlife expressed their disgust on social media and beyond.

Stunned by the criticism, Francis struck back, accusing Gervais of sexism. “Ricky Gervais has used his power and influence to specifically target women in the hunting industry and has sparked thousands of people to call for my death, the death of my family and many other women who hunt,” she said in a statement. She added: “I repeat I will never apologize for being a woman who hunts as I know that my passion for hunting and conservation is making a direct difference on the ground for wildlife.”

In the wake of Gervais’ giraffe tweet, a few people on Twitter did call for violence toward Francis. Some of Francis’ supporters have also suggested violence is the answer. One hunting enthusiast tweeted: “@rickygervais a real hunter would shoot idiots like you for the greater good of society.” Gervais retweeted it.

On her website, Francis boasts of having “taken” bears, moose, sheep, zebra and many other animals with both bows and rifles, and of mentoring other women who are interested in hunting. “For me, there is nothing more empowering than sharing that special moment of success with another female who is chasing her dreams,” she writes.

Gervais responded to Francis’ sexism claim by tweeting as if he were Francis: “I kill lions, giraffes & bears with guns and bows and arrows then pose grinning. Why don’t people like me? Must be because they’re sexist.” He then highlighted male hunters too, employing his usual un-PC humor.

Such as Tweeting, “Maybe he was hungry,” under this photo:


Francis has gone quiet in recent days, but Gervais, whose Twitter feed often features his house cat Ollie, gives no indication that he’s done.

Men and Women Who Hunt Animals Are “Equally Vile”

Ricky Gervais Says Men and Women Who Hunt Animals Are “Equally Vile” AfterPoacher-Hunters-6 Rebecca Francis Claims He’s Targeting Women

Celebrity News Apr. 18, 2015 AT 1:20PM

He’s just getting started. Ricky Gervais continued to slam hunters following his buzzed-about spat with Eye of the Hunter co-host Rebecca Francis. His new comments are in

“We need to stamp out this terrible sexism in the noble sport of trophy hunting,” he tweeted on Friday, April 17. “The men & women that do it are EQUALLY vile &  worthless.”                                  [except for the woman in the photo above–she hunts poachers.]

The British comedian-actor, 53, was appalled earlier this week when he saw a photo of Francis lying down – and smiling – next to a dead giraffe she just killed. “What must’ve happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?” he wrote via Twitter on April 13.

PHOTOS: Celebs and their pets

Francis began to receive death threats following Gervais’ post, which has garnered over 30,000 retweets. On April 14, Francis released a statement saying she preserved the animal by providing locals with its meat. On Friday, she gave a second statement to Hunting Life.

“Ricky Gervais has used his power and influence to specifically target women in the hunting industry and has sparked thousands of people to call for my death, the death of my family and many other women who hunt,” she said, via The Telegraph. “This has evolved into an issue about the morality of threatening human lives over disagreeing with someone else’s beliefs. It shocks me that people who claim to be so loving and caring for animals can turn around and threaten to murder and rape my children.”

PHOTOS: Celebs fight back on Twitter

Gervais, however, doesn’t seem to be backing down. He’s continued to show his love for animals all week. “Enjoy the lovely weather and don’t leave your dog in the car. Have a great day,” he tweeted on April 17. On Friday, he gushed about his adorable “furry bagpipe” cats and snapped a selfie with his “new duck friends” near a lake.

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Death at a Zoo

‘Zoothanasia’ is a common practice in Europe and also occurs in the US. Some wildlife advocates say it’s unnecessary

The killing of a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014 shook the world, causing protests from animal advocates and the public alike. “Marius,” an 18 month-old giraffe that had been born at the Copenhagen Zoo, was healthy and likely would have lived a long life. The animal was put down (and then fed to lions at the zoo), because officials at the zoo concluded it was unsuitable for breeding. A month later, the same zoo euthanized four lions, again on the grounds of genetic purity and breeding.

Giraffes at Copenhagen ZooPhoto by Michael ButtonGiraffes at the Copenhagen Zoo. Zoo animals are typically killed for two reasons: to control the population and manage “surplus animals,” or to maintain genetic strength and diversity within a captive breeding program.

Zoo administrators ended up receiving death threats, and the killings sparked a media feeding frenzy. The serial deaths ushered in a newfound awareness of a not-so-new practice and raised some overlooked questions: Is “zoothanasia,” as the practice has been called, really necessary? And how common is it?

Zoo animals are typically killed for two reasons: to control the population and manage “surplus animals,” or to maintain genetic strength and diversity within a captive breeding program. While many animal rights activists and some conservation biologists are against the use of euthanasia among zoo animals, organizations such as the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria defend the practice. “As an organization, we believe that culling has a valid scientific basis and must remain one of the tools open to our members, provided that it is carried out humanely,” says David Williams-Mitchell, a spokesperson for EAZA.

Marc Bekoff, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Colorado-Boulder and the person credited with coining the term “zoothanasia,” disagrees. He says that killing captive animals is the opposite of conservation. “There simply is no reason to kill any animals, members of endangered species or not, in zoos unless she/he is mortally ill or injured,” says Bekoff, who is author of the book Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence.

Sometimes, zoo animals are killed because there’s just too many of them in their cages and enclosures. These “surplus animals” are the result of animals that have been allowed to breed without a zoo considering how it might care for them in the future. These surplus animals then suffer due to lack of resources, money and care. According to a study from the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, at least 7,500 animals (and as many as 200,000 animals) are considered surplus at any one time. For some zoos, killing an animal is easier (and cheaper) than continuing to care for it, or even transferring it to some kind of a sanctuary. “They’ll tell you they do it for lack of money and space, for example,” Bekoff says.

Some animals are deemed ‘surplus’ because they are poor candidates for breeding. While zoos are mostly in the business of entertaining their visitors and educating them about wildlife, many are home to captive breeding programs and are under pressure to conserve the best of species to ensure they do not go extinct. Williams-Mitchell argues that, from EAZA’s perspective, there is an obligation to consider the future of a species over the future of just one animal. Williams-Mitchell said EAZA believes that “culling as a tool should be available to any zoo that is serious about maintaining a healthy population of a species,” though he was careful to caution that killing “is only one of the options.”

It’s important to note that US zoos practice euthanasia far more sparingly than zoos in the EU.

Accredited zoos in the US aren’t supposed to use euthanasia for routine population control, and typically only kill animals for medical purposes or to relieve suffering — for example, to aid ailing animals and those with deformities and terminal illnesses. In rare cases, animals are killed when the zoo cannot maintain its quality of life at an acceptable standard.

>US zoos primarily utilize contraception instead of euthanasia to manage animal populations. But veterinary birth control comes with its own risks. According to Williams-Mitchell, “Evidence from the United States shows that widespread use of contraception can and has led to catastrophic population collapse in some species, requiring severe remedial measures including the import of animals from elsewhere.”

Peter Dickinson, creator of an zoo professionals’ blog called ZooNews Digest, says the issue is complicated. Zoothanasia is a tool that can be used alongside other successful (and available) methods to help control breeding and population. And sometimes, he argues, it’s the lesser of two evils. “Within the Good Zoo/Bad Zoo way of looking at things….what is better, putting an animal to sleep or packing it off to slum facility?” he says. “Bad zoos take one of two actions. They rear the animal (hand rear) until it is just past the “cutsey” stage and then cull it. Or pack it off to some other slum facility.”

At the very least, the uproar over last year’s euthanasia is raising public awareness about this practice and sparking calls for change at European zoos. In Bekoff’s opinion, zoothanasia is accepted because in the past it was preformed routinely without the public’s knowledge. Also, few people would argue with killing in the name of “conservation.” Now, he says, that’s changing. “It’s often done behind closed doors, but more and more people today can no longer be fooled.”

Jacalyn Beales
Jacalyn Beales is a writer and animal welfare advocate in Toronto, Canada. She is also the founder of PACH (People Against Canned Hunting). You can follow PACH here.

I Swear Because I Care so Much

Cut the crap about a harmless little F-word, there’s animals fucking dying out there.

Yesterday I posted a picture someone put together of multiple murderers and their “trophy” giraffe kills. I’d thought about titling the post, “Who the Hell Hunts10557040_1609109249312078_7951148989311848842_o Giraffes for Sport and How You Can Stop Them?” But the issue made me so angry that I went with my gut reaction and titled it, “Who the Fuck Hunts Giraffes for Sport and How You Can Stop Them?” But, for that I’ve been chastised across the social media by certain readers.

Apologies to anyone reading this that’s a young kid or in some other way sheltered enough to think a word is somehow more offensive than a photo of dozens of dead giraffes and the fuckers who shot them down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t normally go around spewing obscenities, but when some asshole is out murdering animals as harmless and miraculous as a giraffe I start to get a bit pissed off. You could say my tact goes out the fuckin’ window.

Forgive me if I can’t stay civil when addressing some shithead serial-killer-sport-hunter who wants to add a lion, rhino or giraffe to his trophy collection.

Instead of being so sensitive to swear words, perhaps some of you should save your comments for the real criminals—the murdering mother-fuckers who kill sentient beings for sport.


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