A dramatic drop in giraffe populations over the past 30 years has seen the world’s tallest land mammal classified as vulnerable to extinction. Their numbers have gone from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The iconic animal has declined because of habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa. According to IUCN, giraffe specialist group, the creatures are undergoing a “silent extinction”.
“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.” The rapid growth of human populations has seen the expansion of farming and other forms of development that has resulted in the fragmentation of the giraffe’s range in many parts of Africa. But civil unrest in parts of the continent has also taken its toll.
A study in recent months suggested that the giraffe was actually four different species but for this update of the Redlist, the IUCN have stuck with the traditional definition of one species with nine subspecies. Of these, five have had falling populations, one has remained stable while three have grown. Different outcomes seem to be highly dependent on location.
While researchers believe that some local populations may not survive, there is optimism that that the long term future of these tall creatures can be secured. The success in keeping giraffe numbers high in Southern Africa has much to do with the management of game parks for tourists say experts, who believe that the extra attention that the IUCN listing will now attract will benefit the species. “South Africa is a good example of how you can manage wildlife, there is a lot of moving of animals between different conservation areas, it is a very different scenario than in most of the rest of Africa.” said Chris Ransom from the Zoological Society of London.
Giraffes can survive, with the right conservation efforts, and humans can ensure that the animals do live in the wild. There are a lot of cases of success in conservation. The giraffes could be one.