Are Giraffes Really Endangered?

By Antonia Čirjak on February 26 2020 in Environment

Three of the nine giraffe subspecies are currently considered critically endangered.
  • The population of Masai giraffes has declined by almost 50% in the last three decades.
  • Some of the causes behind the destruction of giraffes' habitat are also urban development and agriculture expansion.
  • In some parts of the world it is believed that giraffes can cure people of HIV.

The tallest living terrestrial animal of our planet is in dire need of help! Their population experienced an overall decline of 40% in the last few decades, facing a significant risk of extinction. There are less than 111,000 of these majestic animals remaining today due to the destruction of their habitat and animal poaching.

Yes, giraffes are in danger, and scientifically they are considered endangered, but legally it is a different story.

Why Are Giraffes Becoming Endangered? 

Three of the nine giraffe subspecies are currently considered critically endangered. Those are the Kordofan, Nubian, and Masai subspecies. The Masai, a subspecies from Kenya and Tanzania, is the largest remaining of the three, with around 35,000 Masai giraffes left. Their population declined by nearly 50% in the last 30 years. Their habitats are now scattered throughout Africa. Unfortunately, the biggest reason for such a decline in their population is human activity.  

Two of the most significant ways humans drive the giraffe population towards extinction are poaching and habitat encroachment. Giraffes are being poached for their body parts in many regions of Africa. Their heads and bone marrow are frequent items in Tanzania's local trade markets.

These giraffe parts are even considered to cure people of HIV, further popularising the market and public interest for their species. In places like Congo, giraffe tails are used to make jewelry like bracelets and necklaces.

Because of urban development and the increase in agriculture, people are destroying their habitat by harvesting timber and mining. Agricultural development and urban expansions are turning their homes into farms and ranches. Before, they were roaming freely through the African savanna, but now they are fragmented in small communities across the whole continent.

Why Are They Still Not Protected? 

There is still a severe lack of local law enforcement as giraffes are hunted both for sport and their body parts. The United States also plays a part in these foul deeds, importing as much as 21 402 bone carvings and 3 744 skin pieces between the years of 2006 and 2015. There is a substantial amount of giraffe products available online for sale as you read this. Everything from rugs to knives is making its mark in international trade.

These trades are still legal, and the government does not consider the species as being endangered, even though they qualify under the "Endangered Species Act." If they were to grant them the status of an endangered animal, the international trade in giraffe parts would be restricted, and the danger of extinction might subside, providing much needed regulatory measures.

Humans Second Best Friend 

There is a long history of human and giraffe interaction. The animal has been widely appreciated because of its impressive height and unique beauty, enjoying the high status of an "animal celebrity."

The "Bushmen" of Southern Africa has a dance for treating head ailments named after giraffes, and its majestic height has been a motif in various folktales and Chinese art depictions. Some people even believe the reason for the animal's height is because of eating magic herbs.

Egyptians gave the animal its hieroglyph and even kept them as pets. Giraffes also influenced our popular culture, appearing in various media for children, such as illustrations, cartoons, and picturebooks. It is time to start considering them as a trophy of nature, and not our own.

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