STICK YOUR NECK OUT FOR GIRAFFE CONSERVATION
How can we imagine a world in which giraffe no longer exist in the wild? Giraffe are in rapid decline across the African continent, in what has been termed: the ‘silent extinction’. According to a 2015 report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), wild giraffe numbers have dropped from an estimated 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 representing a population decline of more than 30% in just fifteen years (three giraffe generations). Reflecting this trend, the IUCN global Red List of threatened species recently updated the giraffe's status from "Least Concern" to “Vulnerable”.
WHO'S WHO IN THE GIRAFFE WORLD?
Recent research by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and partners have proposed that there are four distinct species and five sub-species of giraffe in Africa. All species and subspecies live in distinct areas across Africa. This is important information as some subspecies have very small populations, such as the West African giraffe, for which today there are under 550 remaining individuals. With this information, more attention can be brought to the ‘silent extinction’ of giraffes, and conservation efforts can be fortified for the most at-risk subspecies. Without increased awareness, unique and important subspecies of this beloved animal will continue to slide quietly toward extinction.
WHY ARE GIRAFFE IN TROUBLE?
Giraffes face three main threats – habitat loss, deforestation and bushmeat poaching. They are already extinct in seven countries: Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.
Across Africa, Giraffe are victims of bushmeat myths - in Tanzania some are poached due to a false hope that giraffe brains and bone marrow can cure HIV. The San people of the Kalahari believe giraffe blood can change the weather, and in the Congo, giraffe tails are used for marriage dowries. War brings death to wildlife; in Kenya, an al-Shabaab video invited jihadists to come and kill giraffe at a national reserve.
The biggest issue of all, beyond the horror of bushmeat poaching, is habitat loss. Giraffe's grazing areas have been fragmented, fenced off, split by roads, deforested, drilled for oil and mined. Saving habitat for all wildlife including giraffe is imperative. An updated study released last month took a census of all life on Earth, and found that 83% of all wild mammals have vanished with the rise of human civilization. Just 4% of all mammals on the planet today live in the wild. The remaining 96% of mammals living on the planet today are livestock and humans.
“It is definitely striking, our disproportionate place on Earth,” said Professor Ron Milo, the author of the study. “When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino. But if I was trying to give them a more realistic sense of the world, it would be a cow next to a cow next to a cow and then a chicken.”
The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in what is being called the sixth mass extinction. According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately half of the Earth's animals have been lost in the last 50 years. On our watch.
Despite this overwhelming bad news for wildlife, a glimmer of hope shines for giraffe in southern Africa where their population has increased by two to three times in the last fifteen years. And at Wild Tomorrow Fund's reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, we have created newly protected habitat at Ukuwela where giraffe have been reintroduced. Meet Daisy, Ndzilo, JJ, Burly, Magic and Ithemba, our most recent new giraffes who arrived last month on the 18th of May and were named by donors who generously sponsored their introduction.
"It's a refreshing vision of hope in a time of trouble for wildlife," said Wendy Hapgood, one of the co-founders of Wild Tomorrow Fund and based in New York. "Seeing giraffe jump out to their new, wild and protected home at Ukuwela gives us all a sense of optimism and hope for the future of wildlife." Wild Tomorrow Fund intern, Tori Gray, who was on the ground for the first giraffe release late last year, reflected: "Watching this majestic species be released into the wild on Ukuwela Conservancy was one of the most magical things I have ever seen."
HOW CAN I HELP GIRAFFE
Join us in our mission to save wildlife and wild places. You can help directly by donating to help rangers and conservationists in the field. They are the the boots on the ground who are working tirelessly to protect and defend Africa's wildlife and the habitats that are so important to their survival. Lend them a hand by donating a specific piece of equipment, uniform or supporting our wildlife re-introduction work.
Or, let us decided where to best apply your funds to help protect giraffe and other species by donating to our general fund for items most needed.
If you buy an item listed below, our field ecologists based on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa will order the item, then deliver it personally to rangers who put their lives on the line everyday to protect giraffe and other species. Or because our giraffe have already been named, please consider adopting one of our wildebeest or waterbucks - and get the right to name them! This would be a great gift for a friend or celebration.