The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) has voiced its concern over the dwindling population of giraffes in the recent years, and pointed out that unless immediate steps are taken to redress the issue, the animal could well be on the way to extinction. Their population has already fallen by 40% in the last 15 years, points out the GCF.
What is more worrying is the fact that the rapid rate at which their populations across Africa are dwindling has failed to get much attention from the respective governments and other protective agencies. The GCF calls the problem a potentially “silent extinction” due to a lack of public awareness, which revolves around African elephants, rhinos and gorillas.
“While there are warnings and alarm bells ringing about the imminent extinction of the African elephant as a result of the poaching crisis — a situation not in any way to be minimized — there are an estimated 450,000 African elephants compared to 80,000 giraffe,” Kathleen Garrigan, senior communications officer for the African Wildlife Foundation, told Scientific American.
The number of giraffes in Africa has fallen from 140,000 in 1999 to less than 80,000 today. “There are nine different races, and we’re probably going to lose some of them. It’s a terrible situation. They could become extinct,” Canadian giraffe expert Anne Dagg told The Times.
Niger, which is home to the West African giraffes, has less than 300 animals left. Similarly, the number of Rothschild’s giraffes in Uganda and Kenya has fallen to less than 700. Though two giraffe species are already on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of endangered species, more subspecies could be added to the list since the number of animals is going down rapidly.
The main factors responsible for their dwindling population are hunting and loss of natural habitat as humans have been re purposing lands and bringing them under cultivation. These beautiful animals are killed both for their flesh as well as their beautifully patterned skin. A baseless rumor originating from Tanzania that the brain and bone marrow of this animal can help cure HIV has also led to a fall in its numbers.
“Giraffes are the forgotten megafauna,” GCF executive director Julian Fennessy told Scientific American. “They’re really not getting the attention they deserve.”
Conservationists hope that raising awareness about the possibility of the extinction of this will help improve their numbers. The West African giraffe of Niger which had almost gone extinct in the mid 1990s as their population had fallen to less than 50 is one recent example of how human intervention can indeed help. There are now more than 400 animals of that species.
Similar efforts are required to restore the overall giraffe population. The GCF report will be published next year.