The giraffe is the tallest land animal in the world, at an average height of 16-18 ft. (5 meters). They live primarily in savanna areas in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Their extreme height allows them to eat leaves and shoots located much higher than other animals can reach, such as acacia trees.
While there has been great concern about elephants and rhinos, giraffes have unfortunately remained under the radar. There are now fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa, the ungainly mammal is facing a ‘silent extinction’ in the wild.
Giraffe populations have plunged from approximately 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are classified by IUCN’s Red List as ‘vulnerable of extinction’. After researchers surveyed the population in trucks, by foot, by aircraft, and by remote cameras, they confirmed the number of giraffes has plummeted by 40% in the last 3 decades. For some subspecies like the reticulated giraffe, the situation is even more dire, with their population declining by nearly 80%.
The iconic animal faces several threats, including loss of habitat due to logging for firewood, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa. They are hunted for their meat, hides and tails, which are valued by many African tribes.
Rapid development and environmental degradation in Africa is leading to massive habitat loss for giraffes. In some countries like Tanzania, which is home to the world’s largest giraffe population, the animals are primarily slaughtered for bushmeat. Cruel wire snares are the common means of entrapment.
Even though it is illegal to hunt giraffes in Tanzania without a presidential permit, the animals are easy targets for local hunters. Scientists at the Wild Nature Institute based in Arusha, Tanzania, have observed adult giraffes with wire snares around their necks and legs that they have broken free from – evidence that people are putting snares up specifically for giraffes. They are conducting the largest individual-based giraffe research project in the world. The East African country has seen its giraffe population reduced by more than half over the last 30 years. Giraffes are clearly at risk of extinction.
PAMS Foundation is involved in a research and conservation project to help preserve giraffe populations. By supporting appropriate research and conservation initiatives and addressing the poaching crisis with effective anti-poaching methods, the decline of giraffes in the wild can be reversed.