When you think of endangered animals in Africa, the classic elephants and rhinos probably come to your mind first. Yet there is another iconic African animal which has been flying under the radar for years when it comes to population decline, and which needs our help.
In 1999, there were around 140,000 giraffes in Africa. Today, the population has plummeted to an estimated80,000 giraffes left in Africa. That’s a 40% drop in just the last 15 years – but no one is talking about it.
THE SILENT EXTINCTION
As the human population grows, the population of the world’s tallest mammal declines almost by default. A stronger human presence means more settlements, roads, and destruction of the giraffe’s natural habitat and main source of food, the acacia tree. A large portion of giraffe habitat is now being used for agricultural purposes, depriving these gentle giants of even their homes.
Poaching also remains a huge problem for giraffes in Africa, as well as other endangered species, and despite efforts to contain it. Because giraffes are so easily killed, they are a popular target for poachers looking for a quick reward. Many are killed for this reason, as well as for the meat and hides, which are lucrative but require little effort needed to obtain them. The tail of a giraffe, which is used to make bracelets, fly whisks, and thread, is a prized commodity for many African cultures. People in Tanzania actually believe that consuming giraffe brains and bone marrow acts as a cure for HIV, adding to the giraffe’s value for poachers, who can get up to $140 per piece.
There is widespread misconception that giraffes are roaming everywhere in Africa, but that is simply not true. Giraffes are subject to the same poaching and habitat fragmentation that all African wildlife is exposed to, yet they get so little attention in the media. We all know the plight of the elephant and rhino; isn’t it time to focus on the giraffe before it’s too late?