LOS ANGELES -- The United States government is one step closer to protecting giraffes under the Endangered Species Act following years of precipitous population decline.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that it had completed its initial review of a petition to list giraffes as an endangered or threatened species, finding that "existing regulatory mechanisms may be inadequate" and "listing may be warranted" pending a second, more in-depth review.
Agriculture, mining, poaching, disease, recreational hunting and genetic isolation are some of the threats giraffes face in the wild, according to the agency's review.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an international organization not associated with the Fish and Wildlife Service, already considers giraffes to be a vulnerable species, one designation away from endangered. That organization estimates that there are less than 70,000 adult giraffes left in the wild in various populations spread across nearly two dozen countries in central and southern Africa.
Giraffe populations around the continent have dropped as much as 40% since 1985, according to IUCN data. The organization has identified four main threats to giraffes: habitat loss caused by deforestation and human population growth, civil unrest, poaching and ecological changes.
Conservation organizations lauded the Fish and Wildlife Service's announcement, with the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International saying in a statement to the Associated Press, "It is time that the United States stands tall for giraffes and gives this at-risk species the protection that it urgently needs."
The Fish & Wildlife Service will also move forward with further review of potential protections for the Arizona eryngo, a wildflower found in parts of Arizona and Mexico. The San Gabriel chestnut snail and Refugio manzanita, a shrub species found in California, were also reviewed but will not receive any further consideration.
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