New York’s pioneering bill to end giraffe trafficking now heads to governor’s desk

May 09, 2019

Originally published in A Humane World on May 09, 2019.

More than one giraffe trophy is imported into the United States each day, according to trade data analyzed by Humane Society International. Photo by Michelle Riley/The HSUS

New York State is standing tall for giraffes. The state’s lawmakers recently passed a bill that would designate giraffes as a vulnerable species and ban trafficking in their body parts, thus leading the way toward saving this beleaguered species that is fast heading toward extinction.

The bill offers similar protections to other animals at risk of extinction, including the hippopotamus, seven species of pangolins, and the star tortoise. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill into law, New York would become the first state in the union, and even the first in the world, to prohibit the commercial trade in giraffe parts and products.

Giraffes desperately need such protection. Their populations have plummeted by about 40% during the last 30 years and today there are fewer than 100,000 of them left in the wild. While habitat destruction and illegal hunting for bushmeat are the primary forces driving this drastic decline, wildlife trafficking and trophy hunting have also played a significant role.

The United States, the world’s largest importer of wildlife products, shoulders a good part of the blame. More than one giraffe trophy is imported into the country each day, according to trade data analyzed by Humane Society International, and between 2006 and 2015, the United States imported approximately 40,000 giraffe articles.

Our undercover investigation last year found at least 51 dealers across the United States offering giraffe products online and in stores, including a custom-made giraffe skin jacket, giraffe taxidermy, a giraffe skull, a giraffe leather Bible cover, and a pillow made from the face of a giraffe.

The work we’ve done to expose and stop this senseless killing has brought results, and just last month, following a legal petition and a lawsuit filed by the HSUS, HSI and our allies, the United States declared that giraffes may deserve federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Globally, HSI has been advocating for a proposal to list the giraffe as a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

We are excited about the progress for giraffes in New York State, and grateful to the champions of this bill, Assemblymember Steve Englebright and Senator Monica Martinez. The bill will soon head to Gov. Cuomo’s desk for his signature. If you are a New York resident, please call the governor’s office at (518) 474-8390. Respectfully ask him to swiftly sign the bill, A.6600/S.5098, into law, making New York a global pioneer on saving these beloved animals.