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Going, Going, Gone? Giraffes Under Threat

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

Nature and Environmental Writer: Ellie Chivers Investigates The Growing Concern For Giraffes

Photo by Taylor Lee

Not long ago, I saw a meme circulating Twitter, with the premise of, ‘how are giraffes real and unicorns aren’t? What’s more believable – a horse with a horn or a camel with a 6ft long neck?’ Well, the sad but silent reality is, in the not-too-distant-future, neither may be real.

The ICUN – or the International Union for Conservation of Nature and National Resources – have reported that two subspecies of giraffe (Kordofan and Nubian giraffe) are now listed as “critically endangered” , with another (Reticulated giraffe) falls into the “endangered” category.

Giraffes have been considered ‘vulnerable’ by the ICUN since 2016, and only one subspecies – the Angolan giraffe – seem to be escaping danger, still being categorised under ‘least concern.’

Why Are Giraffe Numbers Declining?

The simple answer? Us. Humans. The answer to many of the world’s problems. Jules Howard cites reasons for their upsetting disappearances in an article for The Guardian: “the conversion of grasslands to farmland, deforestation and the impact of civil wars, not forgetting the occasional crazed American tourist with a big gun fetish. Giraffes are now split across Africa into discreet populations that no longer mix – they are nine isolated islands of life being increasingly squeezed from all sides.”

Jani Actman, writer for National Geographic, has also written a devastating piece on the desire for giraffe tails leading to an increase in their killings. Speaking to Leon Lamprecht, joint operations director for African Parks, “[men] use the tail as a dowry to the bride’s father if they want to ask for the hand of a bride.” Gives you the shivers, doesn’t it?

Can We Do Anything to Help?

If we’re the root of the problem, there must be something we can do to correct our mistakes. The solution has become clear through thorough conservation practices. Despite the number of subspecies falling into endangerment, West African and Rothschild giraffe numbers have been on the up. In an article written for India Today, the stats show that:

”The smallest subspecies of West African giraffes grew from just 50 in the 1990s to 400 today, thanks to immense work by the Niger government and conservationists.”

However, the article also suggests that the need for giraffe conservation is often snubbed. It cites the focus on “rhinos, elephants and the illegal trade of pangolins” over the last ten years as the reason for this.

For seven countries, this demoralising and shocking revelation is no revelation at all. Giraffes are already extinct in Eritrea, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Malawi, Mauritania and Senegal. Across the globe, as per Daniel Carrington’s The Guardian report, by 2016 we had already seen a 40% decrease in the number of giraffe.

All I can say is, who knew? The ICUN’s report has certainly bought the drastic decline of giraffes to the forefront, and hopefully it will not be long before we can rescue giraffes from their unsettling state.

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