As the population of Africa’s wild giraffe plunges, a new report has warned that the world’s tallest species is in the midst of a “silent extinction”.
Giraffes have been moved to the “vulnerable” species list by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which monitors and classifies species populations.
The animals had previously been listed as “of least concern”, but the IUCN skipped over the category of “near threatened” to elevate the giraffe to a status shared by the cheetah, dugong and giant panda.
The global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40 per cent over the past 30 years — from about 163,000 in 1985 to about 97,000 last year.
“Whilst giraffes 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,” IUCN co-chairman Julian Fennessy said.
Habitat loss due to expanding agriculture and mining, increased human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are driving the population decline, as is illegal poaching.
Giraffes are killed for their hair, skin, and tails — in June, the bodies of three giraffes were found in the Democratic Republic of Congo with their tails removed.
In September, a resolution adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress called for action to reverse the trend, including safeguarding for key protected areas.
The resolution also highlighted that plight of the giraffe, and its close relative the okapi, had generally attracted far less attention than that of other vulnerable species.
“Despite their iconic status, wide public affection, cultural and economic importance … giraffe and okapi are relatively poorly studied and receive limited conservation attention and funding,” the resolution read.
Mr Fennessy said: “As one of the world’s most iconic animals, it is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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