It's been dubbed a "silent extinction." The global giraffe population is estimated to have fallen by a third from 1985 to 2016, largely as a result of habitat loss and poaching. But Americans' desire for giraffe parts—skulls, hides, whole feet—isn’t helping, per a Humane Society report out Thursday. It cites US Fish and Wildlife data showing some 40,000 giraffe parts were brought into the US between 2006 and 2015, per the New York Times. Across eight states, investigators tracked down giraffe bone pistol grips, boots, rugs, pillows, $10 tail-hair bracelets, and whole feet selling for $75 each, in addition to a $7,500 stuffed juvenile giraffe and a $4,500 skin. As the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't list the giraffe as endangered, the items are entirely legal.
Yet "it's important to raise awareness among the public to the fact that these things are sold across the country," says the Humane Society's Adam Peyman, calling for additional protections for giraffes. If the animal was listed under the Endangered Species Act, for example, trade in giraffe parts would likely be banned, or at least require a government-issued permit, experts previously explained at the Conversation. But as the Humane Society puts blame on the trophy hunters, who typically leave behind all but a giraffe's neck and head, hunters' rights group Safari Club International is hitting back. "Despite the rhetoric in the media, legal regulated hunting is one of the most effective means of conservation," it says, per the Times. (Read more giraffes stories.)