Are Giraffes Becoming Extinct? Species Now Classified As ‘Vulnerable’

Are giraffes becoming extinct? According to a new report, while the giraffe may not quite be in the endangered species category, the spectacular giraffe is not exactly doing as well as it once was.

The troubling news regarding the magnificent giraffe was recently revealed when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated its “Red List of Threatened Species.” Per IUCN’s Red List, giraffes have now moved from the category of “least concern” to “vulnerable.”

According to CBS News, no other mammal besides the giraffe saw its status change on the list this year. IUCN’s Red List status chart shows that vulnerable comes before two worse categories, which are “endangered” and “critically endangered.” Lastly, there is “extinct in the wild” and “extinct.”

When thinking of all of the world’s magnificent creatures, the giraffe is an animal that most certainly holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many. Obviously, the giraffe’s most distinguishing and recognizable feature is its long neck, which gives it a built-in advantage when it comes to eating from the tall trees on its home continent of Africa. Unsurprisingly, IUCN also reports that the giraffe is the “tallest land mammal” on the planet.

A unique and wondrous creature, to say the least, giraffes certainly have a way of inspiring the imagination. The troubling news that they have inched a bit closer to extinction may take a moment to sink in. As John D. Sutter of CNN describes, it may be time to start envisioning the troubling reality of a time where the giraffe may no longer roam.

“[P]erhaps it’s best for us to start imagining a world without the humble giraffe.”

According to the report from IUCN, there were between 151,702 and 163,452 giraffes in existence in the year 1985. As of 2015, there were slightly under 98,000, marking a 36 to 40 percent decline in population over the course of just three decades, according to the report.

The IUCN says that there are nine subspecies of giraffe. While one of the sub-populations is described as “stable” and another three are actually growing, the report claims that five of them have declining populations.

According to IUCN, the reason for the significant decline in giraffes can be attributed to factors including, but not limited to, the increase in “human population,” “illegal hunting,” and “habitat loss.” Although the news that the giraffe may be inching closer to extinction may warrant the most attention, the report also claimed that more than 700 “newly recognized bird species” were looked at as well. Of the bird species that were assessed, the report found that 11 percent of them were “threatened with extinction.”

Image by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

In an article on the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s website, Dr. Julian Fennessy, who is “the co-founder and co-director of GCF,” says that the giraffe is in the middle of what he describes as “a silent extinction.” Fennessy added that most individuals, even conservationists, do not realize that the giraffe is currently in peril.

“Whilst giraffe are commonly seen on safari, in the media and in zoos, people — including conservationists — are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction. With a decline of almost 40% in the last three decades alone, the world’s tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa. As one of the world’s most iconic land animals, it is timely that we stick our necks out for the giraffe before it is too late.”

In IUCN’s Red List report, it also described how the IUCN World Conservation Congress recently adopted a resolution that aims to address the problem of the declining giraffe population. The resolution calls for entities such as IUCN Member States and the United Nations to partake in activities such as raising more awareness on the issue of what is happening to giraffes and “restore the integrity and security” of “protected areas” that have been “threatened.” It also calls for the creation of a “Giraffe Conservation Strategy and Action Plan” across the continent of Africa.

Just as past generations have enjoyed, future generations should have the ability to share the Earth with a creature as awe-inspiring as the giraffe as well. The news that the giraffe may be in danger of extinction is troubling, to say the least, and hopefully, it is a problem that can be solved.

[Featured Image by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images]