This much-loved species is facing a grim future (Image: Getty)

Conservationists are preparing to launch an urgent bid to save giraffes from extinction.

This weekend, representatives of nations from around the world will meet at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Efforts to protect giraffes, jaguars and Asian otters will be on the agenda as delegates launch a bid to regulate the international trade in wildlife.

The international trade in new species of sharks could be regulated to improve management of fisheries which catch tens of millions of sharks a year to supply demand for fins and meat.

And the trade in ivory and rhino horn will also be back on the agenda.

The meeting comes in the wake of a major UN-backed global assessment of nature which warned around a million species are at risk of extinction, with over-exploitation including hunting and trade causing part of the problem.

Among the proposals being discussed is a bid by the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal to regulate the trade in products from giraffes, which are considered to be vulnerable to extinction.

In what has been described as a ‘silent extinction’, giraffe numbers have fallen by up to 40% over the last 30 years due to threats including trade in their parts, as well as habitat loss, illegal hunting and civil war, conservationists said.

Giraffes are among the most famous animal species in the world (Provider: AP)

Matt Collis, director of international policy at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) said: ‘It is important that giraffes are listed by Cites because currently we can’t say for certain how much of their huge population decline is due to trade.

‘We do know it is a significant factor though as the only country that currently collects data on trade in giraffes, the US, has reported almost 40,000 giraffe items traded in a decade, from 2006 to 2015.’

He said listing them on appendix II of the treaty, which would regulate trade in giraffe parts, was vital to prevent illegal and unsustainable trade.

Jaguars already have the highest level of protection as an appendix I species which prohibits most international trade, but there is evidence of a growing illegal trade in the face of demand for big cat parts in traditional medicine.

Efforts to assess the illegal trade and development measures to stop it will be discussed at the meeting.

There will also be efforts to increase the protection for small-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters, both Asian species, by upgrading their listings from appendix II to I, to protect against the pet trade and hunting for skins.

Several groups of sharks could get listed on appendix II, to regulate trade and tackle overfishing.

Rebecca Regnery from Humane Society International, said: ‘The threat that sharks and rays face from the shark fin trade are now so severe that the future survival of many species hangs in the balance as nations prepare to gather at the Cites wildlife conference.’

She urged governments to use their votes at Cites to protect threatened sharks for future generations.

And there will be renewed debate over elephants with several African countries seeking changes that will allow them to sell their ivory stocks in order to support further conservation.

However, other African nations are seeking a counter-proposal which would see all African elephant populations listed on appendix I.

Mr Collis warned that previous ‘one-off sales’ of legal ivory pushed up poaching by providing cover for illegal sales and said it was ‘not a viable way of dealing with the crisis’.

He called for countries to deal with domestic markets for ivory and provide the necessary resources for key countries to protect their elephant populations on the ground.

Two African countries also want to relax the rules protecting rhinos to allow for the trade in horn, live animals and hunting trophies.





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