Fewer than 400 West African giraffes survive. Photo: Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
Only 80,000 giraffes left in Africa
21st June 2014
On the first-ever World Giraffe Day, the world's tallest land mammal is threatened by conflict with humans, habitat loss, war, and disease. One subspecies, the West African giraffe, is down to 400 individuals.
"If we are not careful, while we are working to save some of Africa's megafauna, Africa could end up losing one of the most iconic African megafauna - the giraffe - altogether.
The giraffe population of Africa has fallen by 40% in the past decade in a half.
At 80,000 individuals, is currently just one-fifth the size of the African elephant population.
"Much attention has been focused on elephants and rhinos lately-as well it should. We cannot, however, forget about Africa's giraffes, whose populations have plummeted in a very short period of time", says Dr. Julian Fennessy, director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).
"If we are not careful, while we are working to save some of Africa's megafauna, Africa could end up losing one of the most iconic African megafauna - the giraffe - altogether."
We need more data on giraffe populations
Though listed as 'least concern' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, giraffe camelopardalis does include two subspecies, the West African giraffe and the Rothschild's giraffe that are now categorized as endangered.
The small population of West African giraffe, located in Niger, comprises an estimated 400 individuals, while the Rothschild's giraffe, found only in Kenya and Uganda, numbers about 1,100.
GCF is currently compiling data on the status of all giraffe populations in Africa into a Giraffe Conservation Status Report, which will help guide their IUCN Red List assessment and conservation management into the future. The Giraffe Conservation Status Report is expected to be available in early 2015.
"Giraffes are one of Africa's most beloved animals and always seem to be a part of the traditional African backdrop", says Dr. Philip Muruthi, African Wildlife Foundation's (AWF's) senior director of conservation science.
"Because there is a lack of data about local populations as well as the continental giraffe population, it's important for the scientific community to undertake giraffe research. This will give us a clearer picture of the situation on the ground and help focus resources and protection efforts."
Working with local communities
Over the past few years, AWF has worked with partners and local communities for the past few years in Niger to better understand and protect the West African giraffe.
"The West African giraffe lives only in Niger, mainly on community lands and farms", says AWF's Theo Way Nana, who is currently engaged in the organization's giraffe and elephant conservation work in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin.
"This coexistence with humans has led to reduced and degraded habitat for giraffe, as well as incidents of human-giraffe conflict."
To that end, AWF has supported periodic giraffe censuses, engaged local communities to mitigate human-giraffe conflict, and worked with residents to restore giraffe habitat.
World Giraffe Day was established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), the only charitable organization focused solely on conservation of the African giraffe.
It takes place on the longest day (in ther northern hemisphere) to celebrate the mammal with the longest neck, and offers a rare chance to spotlight the giraffe, which, alongside elephants, rhinos, and other African megafauna, is being threatened by a number of human activities, including poaching, disease, habitat loss, war, and conflict with humans over scarce resources.
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