For weeks, the world looked on with great anticipation while April the giraffe got ready to deliver her calf. The late stages of April’s pregnancy were captured via live stream from her home at Animal Adventure Park, launching the giraffe’s viral stardom. When April finally delivered a healthy male calf on April 17, an estimated 1.2 million viewers watched the birth live on YouTube. But while April basks in the early days of motherhood — this is her fifth time around — her relatives in the wild may soon be added to the endangered species list.
Five environmental groups have recently petitioned to officially add giraffes to the list of endangered species in the United States. These groups filed a legal petition demanding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offer endangered species protections to the world’s largest land animal. According to the conservationists, giraffes have been victims of what they’re calling a “silent extinction” for many years. In December of 2016, the International Species Union for the Conservation of Nature already changed the giraffe’s status from Least Concern to Vulnerable on the official Red List of Threatened Species report.
In sub-Saharan Africa, there are currently only 97,500 giraffes left in the wild, a whopping drop of 40 percent compared to their numbers in 1985.
Both poaching and powerlines have an impact
In addition to the loss of habitat and disease, giraffes are also endangered by illegal poaching. Poachers kill giraffes in the wild for bushmeat as well as for their skins and bones, which can be carved into trinkets for tourists.
According to National Geographic, giraffes are also sometimes killed for their tails, which are traditionally used as a “dowry to the bride’s father if they want to ask for the hand of a bride” in parts of Africa.
Famous for their long necks, giraffes sometimes get tangled up in power lines, where they are killed by either electrocution or starvation. This gentle species also falls victim to vehicle collisions.
Americans also to blame
Another reason giraffes may soon gain the status of an endangered species: Trophy hunters. The Guardian mentions that an overwhelming number of hunters who travel to Africa in quest of “big game,” such as giraffes, elephants, and lions, are from the United States.
In the past 10 years, the group’s data demonstrates that the following items have been imported to the United States.
- 3,008 giraffe skin pieces
- 21,402 giraffe bone carvings
- 3,744 other giraffe hunting trophies
The conservationists believe at least 3,700 giraffes were killed for these trophies alone.
What you can do to help
One of the best ways we can help save the giraffe, as well as keep it off the endangered species list, is to keep paying attention.
As Duke University conservation biologist said in Smithsonian Magazine, “There’s a strong tendency to think that familiar species (such as giraffes, chimps, etc.) must be OK because they are familiar and we see them in zoos.”
However, this is definitely not the case. According to Julian Fennessey, the executive director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, giraffes have been endangered for quite some time, but no one was paying much attention. He mentioned some populations in the wild are made up of less than 400 animals, which makes the giraffe even more endangered than “any gorilla, or almost any large mammal in the world.”
In some places, help for the giraffe comes too late; the species is already extinct in seven African countries.
April the giraffe captured the hearts of millions. But on Friday, her live camera feed will be switched off. Now, it’s up to us to stick out our necks and protect her wild relatives while we still have the chance.
[Featured Image by Yatra/Shutterstock]