Giraffe rushes toward ‘silent extinction’

Giraffes, Tanzania’s national animal, have gone from an animal of ‘least concern’ to being declared ‘vulnerable to extinction.’ Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Giraffes, Tanzania’s national animal, have gone from an animal of ‘least concern’ to being declared ‘vulnerable to extinction.’

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says giraffe numbers across the continent have plunged from 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 — a 40 percent drop.

Giraffes face a ‘silent extinction,’ says Dr Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN giraffe specialist group.

“While there have been great concern about elephants and rhinos, giraffes have gone under the radar,” says Fennessy.

A rising human population, as well as illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing the species towards extinction, says the IUCN.

Northern Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan are areas of key concern where giraffes are seen as war fodder; however some giraffe populations, mostly in southern Africa, are growing or remaining stable.

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