Technically, yes. Officially, not so much…
Giraffes are in grave danger. The population has waned 40% in 30 years, and there are now roughly 68,000 left in the wild. What is left of the herds are unbalanced and face quite a lot of threats, from poaching to habitat loss.
Table of Contents
- Different Species and Subspecies of Giraffes
- Why are giraffes dying out?
- What protections do giraffes have under U.S. regulation?
- What about International Protection?
- How would an endangered ranking benefit giraffes?
- What can you do to support giraffes?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the paramount standard for evaluating endangerment, has found that giraffes (giraffa camelopardalis) are “vulnerable,” indicating that they are under a “high risk” of extinction in the wild. And for some of the nine sub-species, this threat is looming.
For instance, the Kordofan giraffe; 90% of the sub-species has vanished ever since the late 1980s and is down to only 2,000 individuals in the wild. By the same token, the Nubian giraffe subspecies has diminished 98% and lives only on sheltered lands in Kenya. According to the IUCN, the two sub-species are in serious danger of extinction, meaning they face a “very high risk” of extinction in the wild.
The IUCN also declared that Masai giraffe, a sub-species dispersed all over Kenya and Tanzania, is now endangered, mainly due to poaching and modifications of land use. There are a projected 35,000 Masai giraffes left, but their population has decreased by almost 50% in the last three decades.
According to Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, Masai giraffes are exemplary. Provided that they are one of the biggest sub-species of giraffes, they’re the typical image you likely picture when you think of wild giraffes. “For this sub-species to be confirmed endangered is a wake-up call” says Sanerib.
She further said that this was distressing information and it really sounds the alarm bell. It truly shows that we need to be doing more for giraffes worldwide and with whatsoever resources are presented.
Another giraffe species you might hear about is the Rothschild’s giraffe. From the nine subspecies that you hear about, Rothschild’s giraffe is the second most jeopardized with less than 2500 individuals around. Previously found in Kenya, Uganda and Southern Sudan, this subspecies has now been isolated into very small regions of Kenya and Uganda. Essentially, the Rothschild’s giraffe is now considered as part of, and counted as, Nubian giraffe.
Even though for years there’s been an agreement that there’s a single species of giraffe with nine sub-species, proof of genetic differences have appeared in recent years, signifying that there are essentially four species of giraffe and that the Masai is its own species. Although Masai giraffes aren’t generally known as an exclusive species, classifying them as their own could procure more conservation efforts.
Different Species and Subspecies of Giraffes
If you’re a little bit more interested; here’s a simplified breakdown of the different species and subspecies of giraffe population found across the world.
- Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi)
- Northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis) with its 3 subspecies;
- Nubian giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis) Rothschild’s Giraffe is now considered a part of Northern Giraffe subspecies.
- Kordofan giraffe (G. c. antiquorum)
- West African giraffe (G. c. peralta)
- Reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata)
- Southern giraffe (G. giraffa) with its 2 subspecies;
- Angolan giraffe (G. g. angolensis)
- South African giraffe (G. g. giraffa)
Why are giraffes dying out?
1. Loss of Habitat
Of the dangers facing the planet’s tallest animals, habitat loss is one of the several. Giraffes used to range constantly through most of the African savanna. However, today they live in small groups dispersed in clusters across the continent.
In some countries, like Mali, the giraffe has wiped out entirely. In Niger, where several giraffes have been hit by cars, the population is just a handful and so secluded that conservationists have taken the dire action of moving some of the animals to a safer space.
A major reason for the giraffes’ loss of habitat is transformation of woodlands into ranches and estates. Charcoal is one more issue: Africa’s charcoal industry is thriving, with many Africans making their living growing trees and setting fire to the wood to produce the black fuel. While this cottage business is a blessing to a lot of low-income workers, it’s problematic for giraffes, who depend on on those trees for sustenance. As the human population reaches it’s peaks in the 21st century, the matters are only to get worse.
2. Civil Wars
Civil wars are an additional problem. The nearly 13,000 giraffes that lived in Sudan in the early 1980s, these days, have a population totaling merely in the hundreds; its warfare has augmented wildlife trading and poaching. In the face of mounting burden on their livelihoods, some Sudanese have furthermore turned to giraffe bushmeat as a means of living.
3. Disease and Climate Change
Giraffes are moreover defenseless by the spread of disease – like the Giraffe skin disease that creates grayish skin lesions and is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa – in addition to inbreeding (a consequence of populations’ failure to mingle because of habitat division) and the increased regularity and extent of droughts related to climate change.
4. Wildlife Trade – Trophy Hunting
Lastly, the vigorous trafficking of giraffes and their parts—a trade in which the United States plays a major part—is a significant reason in the species’ drop. A modestly perceptive internet shopper can discover thousands of products created from giraffe parts online. One of the main products sold is giraffe bone, which has come to be a substitute for elephant ivory in gun and knife handles. Giraffe-hide carpets and garments are also typical, as well as taxidermy body parts.
Trophy hunting of giraffes is banned in both Kenya and Tanzania, nevertheless they are poached for their bones, meat, hide, and tails. This just like how the African elephant is hunted for its tusks. A projected 2%to 10% of the wild animal’s population is hunted illegitimately per year in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, states the IUCN.
Poaching has amplified because of civil disorder and evolving markets for giraffe parts, comprising bone carvings and tail-hair jewelry. It also believed by some that giraffe bone marrow and brains can treat HIV and AIDS, Tanzanian media have informed. All of this just means greater bounty for the vicious trophy hunters.
What protections do giraffes have under U.S. regulation?
Dealing in giraffe parts is both allowed and mostly not followed up on in the United States since the administration doesn’t currently identify the species as an endangered animal. Nevertheless Elly Pepper, NRDC’s deputy director of the wildlife trade program, states that giraffe numbers undoubtedly meet the requirements of endangerment according to Endangered Species Act (ESA). That rule includes any species that is at risk of extinction throughout all or a substantial percentage of its range.
Though giraffes are not found in the wild in the United States, Pepper says that there are initiatives the government needs to take under the terms of U.S. law to save giraffes. It’s important to admit that the iconic creatures are a desired trophy target of hunters traveling to Africa; American hunters imported 3,744 deceased giraffes between 2006 and 2015. Given that gruesome detail and the disturbingly active trade in giraffe parts in the United States, an endangered ranking would prompt quite a lot of significant protections for the species.
In 2017, an alliance of conservation groups (counting NRDC) lobbied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which enact the ESA, to acknowledge giraffes as endangered. The agency was obligated by law to answer within 90 days. But it did nothing. Therefore, a year and a half later, the alliance took legal action and sued. Instead of facing the wrath of a federal judge, FWS delivered a verdict in April 2019 that the endangerment status may be justified. That gave the agency nine further months to finalize whether the ranking is, indeed, justified.
It’s imperative that U.S. government get moving. Pepper says that giraffes are suffering a silent extinction, having dropped in numbers by 40% over the past 30 years, yet a small number of seem to know this. There are less giraffes left in this world than African elephants.
What about International Protection?
Acknowledgment of their harrowing situation by the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) could, too, help immensely toward saving giraffes. When CITES advises a conservation standing on a species, it limits the international trade in that creature.
Now the members of the convention are considering a proposal to officially rank the species, brought into view by the giraffe range states of the Central African Republic, Senegal, Niger, Chad, Mali, Kenya. Their proposal would certify that all trafficked giraffe parts were lawfully attained and not taken from poached giraffes.
The proposal would also allow authorities to gather international trade statistics for giraffes that would warrant better protections by both the members of CITES and other scientific and administrative organizations in the future.
How would an endangered ranking benefit giraffes?
The leading result of giraffes’ listing under the ESA would be a direct curbing of import and trade within the country. There are circumstances in which trade in giraffe parts may still be acceptable; research and educational purposes, and activities to help support the species for example.
An endangered listing would not completely stop the resistance that federal authorities at work with legal provisions that permit the import of threatened species parts that are at least 100 years old. It can be very tough for a customs official to define the age of a section of giraffe bone or elephant ivory.
Nevertheless, placing giraffes on the endangered species list would help massively. Besides preventing the extensive trade in giraffe parts, it would shift funding to giraffe conservation and call for U.S. government agencies to manage their activities to guarantee that no federal action endangers the species further.
Additionally, we could get the funding for the much-needed protected areas to save giraffes.
An ESA listing would similarly bring a desired attention to the troubles of giraffes, a progress that is less concrete but no less essential than exact regulatory actions. “There is a big lack of awareness and these vital actions will markedly raise public mindfulness of the troubles of giraffes.
The Overlooked Megafauna
Giraffes generally have been understudied in comparison to other vulnerable species. According to giraffe academic Axel Janke, whereas thousands of scientific research has been carried out on white rhinos, just around 400 cover giraffes.
They are the overlooked megafauna in a sense. They have kind of slipped away, unfortunately, while more devotion has been given to, lion, rhino, and elephant other species.
What can you do to support giraffes?
Under no circumstance purchase giraffe products, back organizations that are contesting to protect giraffes, such as the groups like the Giraffe Conservation Fund, and reach out your representatives in government to inform them that you are worried about the silent disappearance crisis of giraffes. Follow up your representatives with inquiries about the conservation status of giraffe population, that really makes an effect!
My recommendation would be to read the following article on how to help protect endangered species.
We have yet to learn so much about giraffes, it would be a disgrace to lose them. For example, they have intricate circulatory systems that could have consequences for grasping human’s high blood pressure. Scientists have also found that they hum at night, and have no clue as to why. By recognizing that they are endangered, with a bit of luck now together with governments and agencies, we can save the beautiful species before it is too late.
At the end of the day, would you want to just tell the next generation about giraffes or actually be able to show all of them?
What are your thoughts on giraffe endangerment and extinction? I’ll be waiting for your comments!