By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – Countries voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to regulate international trade in giraffes, an endangered species, and in their body parts, overcoming objections by southern African states and drawing praise from conservationists.
The provisional decision, taken in a key committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), is expected to be endorsed at a plenary next week, officials said. The requirements would come into force 30 days later.
“The giraffe is in the wild much rarer than African elephants, much rarer,” Tom De Meulenaer, CITES’ scientific services chief, told a news briefing before the vote.
“We are talking about a few tens of thousands of giraffes, and talk about a few hundreds of thousands of African elephants. So we need to be careful,” he said.
Some 106 parties to the U.N.-backed wildlife conservation treaty voted in favour of the motion, 21 voted against, with 7 abstentions, the chairman said, adding: “The proposal is accepted.”
Wildlife activists welcomed the move to list nine species of giraffes on CITES Appendix II that regulates trade. It came after the defeat of a motion by Botswana and other southern African countries to exclude their giraffe populations from any regulation.
Giraffes face “silent extinct”, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a conservation group, said in a statement.
“By placing strict trade limits on giraffe parts, the CITES Parties have recognised that uncontrolled trade could threaten giraffe survival,” said Elly Pepper of the U.S.-based group.“Thanks to today’s decision, the international trade in giraffe parts – which includes rugs and bone carvings – will be tracked in a manner that allows us to focus on problem trends in destructive trade, and fight for additional protections if necessary,” she said.
Cassandra Koenen of World Animal Protection said that giraffes “are not playthings for trophy hunting – an unsustainable and unregulated industry”.
“This message is loud and clear: people care about wild animals and believe they should belong in the wild, not as a trophy in your office.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)