The World’s Giraffes Are Disappearing & We're Only Just Discovering Who We're Losing

The World’s Giraffes Are Disappearing & We're Only Just Discovering Who We're Losing

Known for their distinctive long necks and spotted patterns, giraffes are one of nature’s most iconic and awe-inspiring wild animals. The discovery of four unique giraffe species now indicates an urgent need for international conservation efforts to save these majestic animals.

Over the past three decades, Africa’s giraffe population as a whole has declined by 40% with less than 100,000 individuals remaining in the wild today. Compare that to our worldwide human population which expands by over twice that amount each and every day, and you can begin to understand the scope of the issue.

Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent in the world. As is the case almost everywhere humans are found on Earth, rapid human population growth disrupts and displaces the ranges of wild animals, leading to habitat loss.

Poaching is also a contributor to a decline in overall giraffe numbers.

As a single species, giraffes were classified as “vulnerable” in 2016. However, since giraffes were recently discovered to belong to four genetically and geographically distinct species with nine subspecies, "vulnerable" status does not effectively communicate the dangerously low numbers of giraffe subgroups.

Today, the Masai giraffe species (G. tippelskirchi) population has just 32,050 individuals. The southern giraffe (G. giraffe) has just 52,050 including two subspecies: the Angolan giraffe (G. g. angolensis) and the South African giraffe (G. g. giraffe).

Some giraffe populations need immediate protection, including the endangered reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata) with just 8,700 individuals in existence. It is estimated the northern giraffe species (G. camelopardalis) has just 5,195 individuals in the wild, including the West African giraffe (G. c. peralta) subspecies and the critically endangered Kordofan (G. c. antiquorum) and Nubian (G. c. Camelopardalis) subspecies.

Now, five wildlife protection groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to list northern giraffes under the Endangered Species Act, arguing that the listing of the northern giraffe species crucial for the subspecies’ survival.

Listing northern giraffes would not mandate the habitat protections granted to domestic species, however, it could drastically cut down on poaching by regulating international and interstate imports and exports of giraffe trophies and body parts.

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