There are fewer than 100,000 of these giants in the wild these days, and that’s a big problem. You’ve seen them in every zoo you’ve ever visited most likely, and maybe you thought the big concern was elephants. While the threat to elephants certainly hasn’t gone away, more and more giraffes are vanishing, and giraffes are more rare these days than the gigantic elephant.
In the past 30 years, giraffes have gone from least concern to ‘vulnerable to extinction’. Their numbers have dropped 40% in that time. The cause of the large drop in the past 3 decades are what you’d most likely expect: habitat loss and illegal hunting. However, some cause of the drop is due to the civil unrest in some African countries, which, of course, the giraffe is native to.
Experts are calling the decline a “silent extinction”. Why are they calling it this? Because many conversations on African endangered species included the elephant, and the rhino, but not the giraffe. Giraffes appear to be more common than they are, thanks to misconception and lack of awareness. This has led to the animal not getting the attention it needs, and now the priority has suddenly shifted because of the newly updated IUCN Red List.
“While there have been great concern about elephants and rhinos, giraffes have gone under the radar but, unfortunately, their numbers have been plummeting, and this is something that we were a little shocked about, that they have declined by so much in so little time.” — Dr. Julian Fennessy to BBC
According to the Red List, five out of the nine subspecies of giraffe have had populations that have fallen substantially, where as one subspecies has stayed steady, and the three others have seen some growth in population. These numbers are likely as a result of location of the animals.
Is there hope? Maybe some. According to the aforementioned BBC article, while some localized populations may not survive, there is some hope for the species as a whole. Game parks in South Africa believe that because of the Red List, more attention will be drawn to the animals, and that attention will be good for the survival of the species, hopefully taking it off of the ‘vulnerable to extinction’ list sometime in the future.