Giraffes may be headed for extinction as their numbers are on a rapid decline. Sadly, the giraffe’s demise has gone mostly unnoticed in the scientific community.
The Scientific American notes that the giraffe population has declined over 40 percent in the last 15 years. The decline is the result of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, overhunting, and poaching. Sadly, it seems that the giraffe decline took place without much public awareness or attention from scientists. The Scientific American notes that this is in stark contrast with declining elephant populations which receive large amounts of media attention, even though the situation for the giraffe may actually be more dire.
“For comparison’s sake, 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.”
Even with the giraffe population quickly disappearing, even scientists have been somewhat silent on the issue. The Scientific American notes that a Google Scholar search found fewer than 70 papers about giraffes published so far this decade, compared to 160 for the African elephant.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is the main conservation organization dedicated to protecting giraffes. However, the organization only gained its first full time employee this year, the executive director, Julian Fennessy. This makes Fennessy the first and only giraffe conservationist working full time.
“Until I started full-time in September there’s never been a full-time giraffe conservationist—ever. Giraffes are the forgotten megafauna. They’re really not getting the attention they deserve.”
Julian notes that as a result of the lack of attention, “giraffes are in peril.” It has been noted that when conservation efforts are put into place for giraffes, they respond well. In fact, Niger took conservation efforts of the giraffe seriously and the giraffe population went from just 50 in the mid-1990s to over 400 today.
Fennessy says the next few years may make or break giraffes. Fennessy says that he and other researchers are currently pulling together the data needed to quantify the status of the entire giraffe species and all nine subspecies. Two subspecies are already listed as “endangered,” but Fennessy thinks that several other subspecies will be recommended for endangered status next year or the year after once the necessary information is compiled.
However, he does note that “it’s a hell of a lot of work to gather the necessary information but something that must be done to ensure the world starts taking notice of how endangered giraffes have truly become.”
Can you imagine a world without giraffes?