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Giraffes suffer ‘silent extinction’, say wildlife advocates

Giraffes

Bangkok: Wildlife advocates on Tuesday called to protect the dwindling populations of wild giraffes, whose numbers have fallen by 40 per cent over the past 15 years.

Marking World Giraffe Day on Tuesday with a call to protect the 80,000 to 90,000 giraffes left roaming the African savannahs — down from 140,000 in the early millennium and two million 150 years ago, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) has launched a campaign to put “people at the centre of giraffe conservation” to stem the long-necked herbivores’ silent extinction.

According to GCF, giraffes are often overpassed for protection or advocacy when compared to rhinos or African elephants, despite elephant populations being 5.6 times higher, Efe news reported.

Habitat loss and poaching threaten the survival of the gentle giants, who stand up to 5.7 metres tall and are “easily killed”, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

By raising peoples’ awareness of the plight facing the ungulate mammals, advocates hope to create better government policies to protect them.

The effort has been successful in Niger, where West African giraffe numbers have quadrupled since the government started to protect them in the 1990s after numbers fell to only 50 animals left in the whole country, reports the National Geographic.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) continues to list giraffes as an animal of “least concern” because only two of the nine giraffe subspecies are endangered, but conservationists say this is inaccurate due to a lack of information and interest in studying the unassuming creatures.

“It’s a hell of a lot of work to gather the necessary information (to change the endangered listings),” said GCF Executive Director Julian Fennessy, as cited by the Scientific American journal.

“Giraffes are the forgotten megafauna. They’re really not getting the attention they deserve,” Fennessy added.

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