Three of the four newly distinguished giraffe species are in significant decline. Concern over the species' threat status prompted a proposal to list the giraffe, which is still recognized as a single species by the IUCN, in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). However, there is a distinct lack of quantitative data and research on the scale, extent and purpose of both illegal and legal hunting, and the use and/or trading of giraffe and their parts. As a first step towards addressing these knowledge gaps, we conducted a literature review as well as a specialist survey regarding the use and trade of giraffe. We found that the dynamics of legal and illegal trade and the use of giraffe parts vary throughout Africa, ranging from local consumption to cross border and international trade, and from ornamental adornment to medicinal and consumption use. While the CITES listing of giraffe provides a mechanism through which international trade can be monitored, our findings suggest that the majority of illegal hunting currently occurs domestically and only within certain giraffe populations. This article is the first step towards understanding the drivers and managing the associated impacts of unsustainable and illegal giraffe use and trade.