wo subspecies of giraffes were recently added to the list of “critically endangered” species for the first time ever, as per athelatest report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which administers the world’s official endangered species list.
The IUCN reported on Saturday that they have moved the giraffe from the list of ‘Least Concern’ to that of ‘Vulnerable’ status in their Red List of Threatened Species report.
The next slots after ‘vulnerable’ are ‘endangered’, ‘critically endangered’, ‘extinct in the wild’, and ‘extinct’. Thus, if we do nothing about it, giraffes could become extinct in the wild in the medium-term future.
Which giraffe species are facing extinction?
There are nine subspecies of giraffes. Five of them are declining in numbers, two are improving, and one is stable, reports the New York Times.
Two subspecies of the world’s tallest land animal — the Kordofan giraffe and the Nubian giraffe – were added to the list of “critically endangered. These giraffe subspecies are found mainly across East, Central, and West Africa.
Another subspecies living in the Horn of Africa — called the reticulated giraffe – was listed as “endangered”.
Giraffe subspecies which got a status upgrade
Even though the Kordofan giraffe and the Nubian giraffe are now critically endangered, the West African and the Rothschild’s giraffe species have seen an increase in their numbers, leading to an upgrade in their conservation status.
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.
Giraffes are overlooked in conservation practice
Giraffes have never been considered to be at any big threat of disappearing, but the truth is — they have been steadily decreasing in number over the years.
However, this new classification came as a surprise even to some conservationists, as observing them often in zoos or in movies makes us believe “they will be fine” and we barely guess that they could be in danger. The cries for help have centred on rhinos, elephants and the illegal trade of pangolins for the last decade.
The dwindling populations of giraffe species — some as low as 400 — happened so quietly that barely anyone got an idea of the tallest land animals reaching so close to disappearing off the face of Earth. They are shockingly more endangered than any gorilla.
As per a report by The Guardian by Damian Carrington, the number of giraffes has dropped from 157,000 in 1985 to 97,500 in just the last 31 years. That’s a decline of almost 40 per cent.
Giraffes have already disappeared from seven countries — Eritrea, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Malawi, Mauritania, and Senegal. They have been in danger for the last century in Africa.
Cause behind giraffes becoming endangered
As with the endangerment or extinction of any animal or plant species now, humans are at the root of it. Increased urbanisation, poaching, illegal hunting practices, and civil unrest in parts of Africa prove to be an increasing danger for giraffes.
The top cause for concern is that the world’s tallest land animals are losing their habitat primarily because of land being taken over for agriculture, mining or construction. Stopping this is a huge task as it essentially means hampering the economy and livelihood of people and stopping land development.
Other than poaching or villagers eating its meat for food scarcity, they are also shockingly killed just for their tails as they are seen as a status symbol in some cultures and can be used as a dowry, as per National Geographic reports by Jani Actman.