Almost 40,000 giraffe parts and products that include cowboy boots, pillows, rugs, and knife or gun handles made from giraffe hides or bones were imported into the United States over the past decade, according to an undercover investigation.
The investigation, conducted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), found giraffe parts being sold legally at more than 52 U.S. locations. The findings, released on Aug. 23, come amid a global decline in the population of the world’s tallest animal.
The first-of-its-kind report indicates the scale and variety of giraffe products commercially available across the United States, thought to add up to about 4,000 of the animals killed in Africa by trophy hunters, and imported to market in the United States, which the report terms a “substantial” part of the global trade.
Although the sale of giraffe products is legal in the United States, the organization wants to put an end to it by listing the animal as endangered, thereby prohibiting all imports, exports, and trade. In July last year, the HSUS and other similar organizations submitted a joint petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which has yet to respond.
Kitty Block, the acting president and CEO of HSUS, told The Epoch Times that a thriving market in the United States is making the problem worse. On average, more than one giraffe a day is imported into the United States by trophy hunters.
“The lack of protection the giraffe faces is appalling, given the decline in their populations,” she said via email. “Purchasing giraffe parts is contributing to their demise, and there is no reason or need to own a giraffe skin rug, a giraffe skin jacket or a giraffe bone knife handle.”
Products made from giraffe range from cowboy boots, specialty knives (from giraffe bone), taxidermy trophies, hide pillows and rugs, book covers, and more. Prices for such items range from $400 for giraffe leather boots to $5,500 for a custom-made giraffe jacket; a taxidermy trophy can fetch $8,000.
Giraffes are undergoing a “silent extinction,” according to the report, which states that the wild population of the animal has declined by about 40 percent since about 1990, mainly due to habitat loss, trophy hunters, and illegal meat trade hunters.
These fears of extinction were reiterated by Adam Peyman, the organization’s programs and operations manager for the Wildlife Department. He told The Epoch Times they released the report to raise awareness and to end a trade he says is “completely unregulated.”
“The purpose of the investigation, which is really a first of its kind, was to open the public’s eyes to the scale of the trade in giraffe parts and products in the U.S., and to put increased pressure on the USFWS to take action on our petition,” Peyman said via email.
In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature elevated the threat status of giraffes to “vulnerable.” Two of the nine subspecies are deemed “endangered.”
A ‘New Exotic’
The popularity of giraffe products could be attributed to its use as an alternative to ivory, which is far more regulated.
“The results of the investigation indicate that giraffe parts are considered to be a ‘new exotic’ that may be gaining popularity as it is much more easily attainable than ivory,” Peyman said.
Investigators found that giraffe products were easily available through wholesalers and retailers across the county in California, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, and other states.
Some of the sellers told investigators they received the giraffe parts from trophy hunters. They said they took custom orders for some products, while others lied to investigators by telling them that the herbivores were dangerous and needed to be killed to protect African villages.
The pro-hunting organizations National Rifle Association and Sportsmen’s Alliance didn’t respond to a request for comment on the report before publication.