Giraffe Uplisting - The Truth about Giraffes

Posted On : Oct 30, 2019

Posted By : JM

A South African Giraffe take before the uplisting

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) has voted to regulate international trade in giraffes by up listing them to Appendix Two.  Appendices I, II and III are lists of species afforded different levels, or types of protection from over-exploitation.

Appendix II lists animals that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is tightly controlled.  International trade in specimens of Appendix II animals may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or re-export permit. 

August 2019 saw a decision made by a CITIES committee to list giraffes on Appendix II; moving them from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’.  This includes trade on their skins or other body parts. 

Giraffe are widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller populations in central and west Africa. New population surveys indicate that just under 100,000 giraffes exist.  There are nine recognized species of giraffe, each with its own distinct coat pattern.  They are; Angolan, Kordofan, Masai, Nubian, Reticulated, Rothschild, South African, Thornicroft, and West African.  However, this is up for debate as numerous scientist’s state that there is one main species, and the rest are subspecies.  Four species are increasing, four are decreasing, and one is stable.  Two of the species, the Angolan giraffe and the South African giraffe have each more than doubled in population size.  And these inhabit countries that have legal giraffe hunting.  Their combined population has grown from 23,000 during the 1970s to over 50,000 as of 2019.  The recent declines have been the Nubian – 20,000 in 1980; under 1,000 today; Masai – 65,000 to 30,000, and the reticulated – 40,000 in 1990 to 8,500 in current times. These are all species that inhabit east African countries where legal hunting is not permitted – Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

What this means is that if a subspecies is elevated to a species, it can be listed as a threatened category.  Human population growth poses the largest threat to giraffe in Africa today.  Habitat loss, increasing agriculture, mining, illegal hunting and civil unrest are endangering the giraffe.  Note that legal hunting is not in this list.  

Wildlife activists welcomed the giraffe up listing to Appendix II animals. Southern African countries filed a motion to exclude their giraffe populations from regulation, but it was defeated.   Input from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN0 indicates that legal hunting of giraffe is not a threat to the species. Specifically, they stated that populations in countries where legal giraffe hunting takes place are generally on the upswing.  The groups calling for outright bans on giraffe hunting have taken no notice of this finding.

In some areas of South Africa, giraffe culling is necessary. Giraffe on many game reserves don’t have any natural enemies.  Lions are really the only predators capable of taking down a mature giraffe.  To control the population, the giraffe have to be sold or slaughtered.  However, the giraffe products market is saturated, and it is nearly impossible to sell these animals, especially older ones.  Their life expectancy is 10-15 years, and as they age and their teeth wear, and their digestive abilities decline and they starve. When a giraffe weakens from starvation it will be unable to stand.  The hyenas will wait for one to fall, then begin eating it before it dies.  It is a very cruel and painful way to die.  There is no happy ending for an old giraffe.  They have no dignity, and no tree to lay under and drift off to permanent sleep. This is true for every species of animal in Africa. 

Also, due to the restricted habitat on game farms, giraffe inbreeding can occur.  An older male can and will breed with his daughters and granddaughters which weakens the herd.  As far a trophy hunting, an adult giraffe will yield between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of meat.  The trophy hunter pays thousands for the hunt and usually takes the skin and head for a trophy.  Your author hunted an old stink bull giraffe that was down to its last set of molars and beginning to lose weight.  He stood well over 20 feet tall, and estimated weight was in excess of 2,500 pounds. 

The services of a tractor and trailer were required to move the carcass from the hunting area to the skinning shed.  The giraffe yielded approximately 2,000 of meat which delighted the local villagers because their ability to obtain protein is limited.  Fresh meat of any kind is considered a treat and delicacy in Africa.  When people are reduced to boiling stomach linings and intestines to make soup or jerky, the game animal becomes the butcher shop for many.  Most villagers have no electricity or refrigeration, so the meat is only good for a short time.  They will turn some of the meat into biltong, or jerky, which will keep without refrigeration.  Some villages will trade biltong to other villages for products they don’t have.

So, the giraffe is not hunted for FUN only; even though it was fun to hunt.  Its meat is distributed and some of the money spent on the hunt is used for anti-poaching control, education, and habitat improvement like wells and ponds.

In South Africa most of the animals are located on private land.  They are behind fences on all the farms, be they 25,000 or 500,000 acres.  The fences keep the animals where they need to be; not roaming cities or traveling roads.  These animals must be controlled.  Even the wild animals seen on TV are in state owned parks, and they need their population controlled through hunting or culling.  The animals must pay their own way.  If hunting is stopped and the animals become worthless, as in Kenya, they will disappear.  Water holes will not be maintained, and many other species that rely on fresh water will cease to exist.

Making an animal harder to hunt by regulating its import is not a solution to animal population control.  The reason that giraffe in well-regulated countries are prospering is that they are hunted and therefore have value and are worth saving.