If we don’t act now, future generations, may only see giraffes in encyclopedias and museums.
The planet’s tallest animal is now facing a threat of potentially being wiped off the face of the earth with two subspecies listed as "critically endangered" for the first time.
According to the latest report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Kordofan and Nubian subspecies of giraffe are now "critically endangered," while the reticulated giraffe was listed as "endangered."
Thornicrofts and West African giraffes, on the other hand, are considered to be "vulnerable," while the Rothschild’s giraffe is "near threatened."
According to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, there are only over 4,000 Kordofan and Nubian giraffes left in the wild — meaning, the gentle creatures are just a stage away from being extinct.
The news came as a surprise to most people and even for some conservationists. IUCN noted that historically giraffes have "been overlooked in terms of research and conservation.”
Although giraffes are present in almost every zoo and are often seen in the media, Dr. Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group (SSC GOSG) and director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), warned that the gentle giants are undergoing “silent extinction.”
“The world’s tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa. 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,” he explained in a statement.
Like most reasons for endangerment, humans are the largest threat to the iconic animals. The habitat loss through expansion of agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, illegal hunting, and civil unrest are all factors that are contributing to the giraffe’s dwindling population.
“The updated IUCN Red List assessment highlights what we have been saying for years: giraffe are in trouble and there is no one solution to giraffe conservation in Africa. Different scenarios require different approaches,” Steph Fennessy, director of GCF and member of the IUCN SSC GOSG said.
Fenessy also called the public to rally for support and spread awareness, which the director believes, will “ultimately help to save them in the wild.”
According to GCF, however, it is not yet too late and that the tall animals still have a chance as two of the subspecies’ population has increased. Although the West African and Rothschild’s population is still at risk, the giraffe subspecies have improved their conservation status. From being considered as ‘endangered,’ the two have been down listed ‘vulnerable’ and ‘near threatened,’ respectively.
“This is a conservation success story and highlights the value of making proactive giraffe conservation and management efforts in critical populations across the continent. Working collaboratively with governments and other partners, we feel that our proactive measures are saving giraffe in some areas before it is too late. It is now timely to increase our efforts, especially for those listed as ‘critically endangered’ and ‘endangered,’” Arthur Muneza, East Africa coordinator of the GCF, said in a statement.