The majestic giraffe is an animal we take for granted, but they've just been downgraded to "vulnerable."
Those majestic long-necked beasts that seem a staple of the African safari are in big, big trouble. That’s according to the latest report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red list,” which has downgraded the giraffe from “least concern” to “vulnerable.”
The giraffe population has absolutely plunged in the last three decades, dipping 40 percent and dropping the population below 100,000 for the first time, when it had been at 151,000 in the mid-1980s. The animal is coming alarming close to extinction in just a very short time span, and drastic actions will be need to help the creature.
The primary threat to the giraffe is habitat loss, but they’re also targeted by poachers and have been ravaged by disease. The animal is so ubiquitous in culture that most people probably don’t realize just how threatened the giraffe is, and some have likened it to a “silent extinction.” In fact, scientists think entire subspecies have been wiped out already.
Conservation efforts have been launched in Africa to provide a model for restoring their population numbers, but much work remains to be done.
The IUCN statement is below.
The iconic giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), one of the world’s most recognisable animals and the tallest land mammal, is now threatened with extinction. The species, which is widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated subpopulations in west and central Africa, has moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable due to a dramatic 36-40% decline from approximately 151,702-163,452 individuals in 1985 to 97,562 in 2015.
The growing human population is having a negative impact on many giraffe subpopulations. 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. Of the nine subspecies of giraffe, three have increasing populations, whilst five have decreasing populations and one is stable.
A resolution adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September this year called for action to reverse the decline of the giraffe.
NOTING that the Giraffidae family includes only two living species, restricted to the African continent: the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), currently comprising nine savannah subspecies occurring patchily in 21 countries, and the okapi (Okapia johnstoni), restricted to the north-eastern rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC);
HIGHLIGHTING that despite their iconic status, wide public affection, cultural and economic importance and role in the functioning of African ecosystems, giraffe and okapi are relatively poorly studied and receive limited conservation attention and funding;
ALARMED that recent surveys and reviews highlight severe range reductions, population declines and increasing fragmentation, due to habitat loss and degradation (for agricultural expansion, timber and fuelwood collection, infrastructure development and extractive activities), human encroachment and settlement, poaching, war and civil unrest;
NOTING that while previously listed as Least Concern and Near Threatened, giraffe and okapi have recently been assessed as Vulnerable and Endangered respectively in the IUCN Red List due to population declines of 35–50% over the past three decades, with some giraffe subspecies now Critically Endangered;
RECALLING the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Target 12: “The extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained”;
NOTING Resolution 5.022 Supporting regional initiatives to conserve mammal diversity in West and Central Africa and Recommendation 5.157 Protection of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and communities of the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Jeju, 2012);
APPLAUDING the publishing of the Okapi Conservation Strategy 2015-2025 by IUCN and ICCN; and
CONCERNED that without urgent implementation of this Strategy, similar conservation efforts focused on giraffe and wider actions to address overarching threats, overall numbers of both species will continue to fall and some giraffe subspecies may be lost forever.