Thanks to the latest wildlife convention in Geneva, hundreds of endangered species are offered with new protections against international trade.

Most importantly, giraffes were given international protections for the first time through a new Appendix II designation by the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

IUCN recently classified giraffes as “vulnerable,” because of their 36-40% population decline over the last 30 years.

“Securing CITES Appendix II protection for the giraffe throws a vital lifeline to this majestic species, which has been going quietly extinct for years,” said Adam Peyman, wildlife programs and operations manager of Humane Society International. “This listing could not come soon enough. CITES listing will ensure that giraffe parts in international trade were legally acquired and not detrimental to the survival of the species.”

Every three years, delegates from different countries gather to the summit to implement legislation to protect endangered species. This year, 183 summit members agreed to pass protections for more than 500 species, including the smooth-coated otter, swallowtail butterfly, pancake tortoise, southern white rhino, and mako shark.

“CITES sets the rules for international trade in wild fauna and flora,” said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero. “It is a powerful tool for ensuring sustainability and responding to the rapid loss of biodiversity – often called the sixth extinction crisis – by preventing and reversing declines in wildlife populations.”

The delegates see the importance of implementing this legislation as wildlife crime continues to threaten many species.

“If that trend continues, it means that we are headed toward extinction,” said Maina Philip Muruthi of the African Wildlife Foundation.

But, not all African countries agree.

“We see no reason as to why we should support this decision, because Tanzania has a stable and increasing population of giraffes,” said Maurus Msuha, director of wildlife at the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. “Over 50% of our giraffe population is within the Serengeti ecosystem, which is well protected. Why should we then go for this?”

The Geneva convention originally came after the Trump administration announced plans to roll back some parts of the US Endangered Species Act – a law that protects hundreds of animal and plant species, including the US national bird, the bald eagle.

Republicans argue the law was too broad, so part of the planned changes include attaching cost to saving an animal or plant for the first time and newly listed creatures as threatened would be removed.

Environmental groups then filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop these changes from happening.

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