A quiet slip into extinction
Although they are one of Africa’s most beloved animals, giraffes have silently slipped into “critically endangered” status. They were listed by The International Union for Conservation on Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species at the end of 2018.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list, there are nine subspecies of giraffe: two are considered critically endangered, another endangered, and three more vulnerable or threatened.
Over the past 30 years, more than 40 percent of giraffes have disappeared from the wild, either from poaching or habitat loss. ABS-CBN News reported that between the two critically endangered species, the Kordofan and Nubian giraffes, only about 4,000 remain in the wild. This leaves certain species of giraffe at the brink of extinction.
The population of giraffes did not vanish overnight, but the problem has slipped under the radar for years. The lack of public awareness is partly due to the overshadowing of other more prominent African wildlife, such as the rhinoceros.
Because some subspecies of giraffes in southern Africa are thriving due to well-coordinated conservation efforts, there is a misconception of general stability.
“Giraffes in southern Africa are doing ok compared to other mammals like rhinoceros they share a range with, however not all giraffes are alike,” Phil Torres, a biologist, journalist, and television host known for his conservation efforts said. “I think people have long assumed ‘giraffes’ as a whole are doing okay without looking at the subspecies and populations that clearly aren’t.”
This assumption is exactly what has lead to neglect and critical condition for the other subspecies of giraffes according to Torres and other scientists in the field.
This new status has created exactly what the giraffes need: attention. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s announcement has drawn the media’s gaze to the reality of giraffe’s dire condition and subsequently brought the discussion into the public sphere.
This is causing organizations and scientists already focused on conservation in Africa to refocus attention on giraffes and gain the resources needed to maintain the numbers. Despite the grim diagnosis, conservationists remain optimistic.
“I think giraffes can survive, with the right conservation efforts, and we can ensure that the animals do live in the wild,” Chris Ransom of the Zoological Society of London said in an interview with BBC News. “There are a lot of cases of success in conservation.”
So, what can the average animal lover do? Sticking your neck out to save the world’s tallest animal is not an impossible task— it begins from your own home.
“It’s important for us to look at where our products come from and what damage they may be doing abroad, but also to prioritize conservation of our own wild species so we can create a society that values these species inherently, not just when convenient or visible on a safari,” Torres said.
He believes Americans have the power to effect and help conservation to impact our future, should they simply act.
By Michaela Payne, Jess Lykins