Feb 26th, 2017, 04:43 PM

The Silent Extinction of Giraffes

By Claudia Rosha
Image Credit: Shutterstock/francesco de marco
The world’s tallest animal is becoming an endangered species in the blink of an eye and no one seems concerned.

In the past week upwards of 30 million viewers tuned in via live feed to watch a pregnant giraffe called April at the Animal Adventure Park in upstate New York. In the days before giving birth, April become a worldwide sensation and gained much attention in the media.

Yet, no one has been talking about a much more important issue: giraffes are quietly becoming extinct.

In the past 30 years this tall and majestic animal has suffered at a 40% decline in population, putting them on the watch list for extinction. Since the giraffe is such a quiet and mundane animal, however, people have not been paying attention to the rapid decrease in their numbers. Humans are actually one of the culprits for this tragedy. Due to expanding human population in parts of Africa, giraffes are being driven from their habitat. The illegal capture and poaching are also to blame for the rapidly declining population figures. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock/francesco de marco

A Duke University biologists stated that “there’s a strong tendency to think that familiar species (such as giraffes, chimps, etc.) must be okay because they are familiar and we see them in zoos.” People think that it is impossible for such a recognizable and majestic animal to be decreasing in population so rapidly. As a result, people are failing to realize how serious this tragedy is. This chart below shows the decrease from 1985-2015. The numbers have fallen approximately 59,500 in just 30 short years. The population today is down to less than 100,000 worldwide. 

Image Credit: The Guardian

Researchers and biologists are even disregarding this phenomenon. A German biologist explains this neglect: “Only 400 scientific papers have been written about giraffes, versus 20,000 papers on white rhinos.” This is why this crisis is being labeled as a “silent extinction.” While elephants, for example, have been the topic of conversation for endangered species in Africa, giraffes are being completely overlooked even though they are disappearing even more rapidly than elephants.

It took giraffes to move up to the “vulnerable” status on the red list (meaning they are at high risk of becoming an endangered species) for people to acknowledge the downward spiral. How do biologists and researchers expect any change to happen when they are turning a blind eye themselves?

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ diterneation

Nevertheless, there is still a glimmer of hope for these precious animals. While there is still a fear that these species will eventually become fully extinct, researchers believe that making changes will protect their future. For example, tourist sites and human activity must be conserved in these areas. There also must be more focus on preventing poaching and habitat destruction in Africa, humans contributing to this decline must make a change.

Giraffes face 'silent extinction'

However, it is not only in the hands of researchers and biologists to turn around this threat to giraffes as a species. There is a call to action for us and there are ways we can get involved. Along with simply raising awareness of this crisis, there are a variety of foundations such as the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) that are taking steps to create new habitats for giraffes by working side by side with people in Africa and gaining a support system of others around the world.

Below are some foundations to donate and get involved in making a difference. We can all make a small contribution to save these graceful and beloved animals!