Two subspecies of giraffes have been officially added to the list of endangered animals and are considered under threat of extinction.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the number of giraffes on the Planet has dropped by 40% in just three decades.
As a result, they are now in the “vulnerable” category on the Red List of Threatened Species.
In total, there are four giraffe species and nine subspecies. Not all are in danger, but all are impacted by poaching and other threats.
The two subspecies on the endangered list are Kordofan and Nubian giraffes, although, other giraffe species are struggling to repopulate as well, especially in face of poaching.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation estimates there are less than 100,000 giraffes in all of Africa.
The main factors working against giraffe populations include mining, agriculture, poaching, and construction in Africa. As natural habitats decline, so too do giraffe populations.
Encroachment from cities and poaching are the two greatest threats. Poaching is an especially pressing problem, with some villages killing giraffes for meat.
In addition, many giraffes are slaughtered for their tails, which are considered a status symbol and, in some cultures, used as a dowry when asking a bride’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Not to mention, giraffes are often victims of poaching for their beautiful hides.
“Two specific subspecies – the Kordofan and Nubian – were reclassified as ‘Critically Endangered’, with populations dwindling quickest in wild areas of Eritrea, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Malawi, Mauritania, and Senegal,” the Irish Post reports.
The Northern giraffe has the smallest population size – at around 5,000 individuals. Nubian (formerly Rothschild’s) are a subspecies of Northern giraffe, and it is estimated that there are only 2,645 individuals left living in the wild, the majority of which reside in Uganda.
Most people, even many conservationists, do not associate giraffes with being endangered. After all, you can easily spot the world’s tallest animal at your local zoo or on safari. This is leading some experts to call it a “silent extinction.”
“While giraffe populations in southern Africa are doing just fine, the world’s tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa,” explains Dr. Julian Fennessy, the IUCN Special Survival Commission co-chair.
“It may come as a shock that three of the currently recognized nine subspecies are now considered ‘Critically Endangered’ or ‘Endangered’, but we have been sounding the alarm for a few years now,” Dr. Fennessy adds.
According to Dr. Fennessy, it’s this lack of awareness that stands against giraffes in a big way.
“I am absolutely amazed that no one has a clue. This silent extinction. Some populations less than 400. That is more endangered than any gorilla, or almost any large mammal in the world,” she told the Smithsonian magazine.
Other animals are far more commonly associated with the risk of extinction, such as the African elephant and rhinos. Although, poachers can get up to $140 for the head and bones of a giraffe.
This fact was uncovered in 2010 by the Rothschild’s Giraffe Project, which discovered “freshly severed heads and giraffe bones.”
Even giraffes living in protected reserves are in need of greater numbers to thrive. For instance, there are only 35 giraffes living in Kidepo Valley National Park. At least this is an improvement from the 3 giraffes living there in the 1990s.
As giraffe populations decline, their bones, heads, and tails continue to increase in value. As a result, illegal hunting becomes more lucrative.
This haunting report by the IUCN comes on the tail of the September 2018 resolution created by the organization’s World Conservation Congress to reverse the decline in giraffe populations.
The giraffe is an incredible species that is native to over 15 African countries. The long-necked beauty can run anywhere from 19 to 37 miles per hour.
The average giraffe is over 18 feet tall and weighs over 2,600 pounds, with males weighing up to 4,254 pounds. The majority live between 10 and 15 years, with the oldest giraffes on record living closer to 30 years.
It is so important that we recognize the danger giraffes are in and act now to protect them. Otherwise, our children’s children will think they only exist in zoos.
Don’t forget, it is World Giraffe Day every year on June 21. Visit GiraffeConservation.org to learn more about how you can help giraffes on this day, and every day.