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Growing concern for the giraffe’s dwindling population and a growing market across the world for giraffe products led to an announcement from federal wildlife officials that the animal may soon be listed as an endangered species. Conservation groups have sought after the measure for several years.

The announcement came from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The officials said that the preliminary research has found that there is substantial evidence that the animals may soon need to be listed as endangered. The service will now undertake an in-depth review before officially deciding if the animals should be listed or not. According to conservationists, the review could take several years.

In the 2012 fiscal year, $1.7 billion was spent on protecting endangered species’ in the United States. This money is given to a variety of conservation programs who work to increase animal populations and protect the animals. If listed, giraffes would be able to receive a portion of these funds. Additionally, restrictions would be placed on their import into the United States.

More than two years prior to the announcement, conservation groups petitioned the Trump administration to protect the animals by adding them to the list. Federal regulations state that the wildlife service must respond to petitions within 90 days. Though the petition was filed on April 2017, officials did not respond until June 2019. It was not explained why the service failed to meet the 90-day deadline.

Many were surprised at the announcement from the Trump administration, which has consistently cut back environmental protections. Last year, the wildlife service announcement that hunters could begin importing some big-game hunting trophies, a move that overturned a decision made under the Obama administration. Conservation groups were excited about the announcement but called it a small part in protecting giraffes. An in-depth review is just the first step in protecting the potentially-endangered animal.

The giraffe population has declined an estimated 40 percent in the past 30 years. The population is currently estimated to be approximately 97,000. City expansion, timber, and agriculture harvest pose the biggest threat to the animals. Legal hunting and poaching have also contributed to the decline. Conservationists hope that with additional funding and restrictions placed on imports, the population can grow over the next several years.