Let's Stick Our Necks Out For Giraffe
I have spent many years speaking and presenting about the plight of elephants and rhinos due to poaching and habitat degradation. And the whole time I was doing so, giraffes have been silently walking towards extinction right beside the elephants and rhinos.
For almost a decade, elephants and rhinos have had most of the attention when it comes to large species conservation in Africa. And that's completely understandable with all of the aggressive poaching they have had to deal with. I mean, the reality is, some regions of Africa have seen a complete disappearance of all elephants or rhinos.
Then, a few years ago, we started to realize there was another species in need of our attention. The elegant giraffe. Populations have not only dropped, they have completely disappeared in some regions of Africa.
Well, before we get to the why, let's first talk about the numbers. Recently completed surveys show that in the last 30 years the overall population of giraffes has dropped by 40%.
Interestingly enough, even though almost everyone knows what a giraffe is, very little scientific studies have been done on wild populations. Current studies have revealed that, of the 9 subspecies of giraffes, 1 subspecies population is stable, 5 subspecies have decreasing populations, and 3 subspecies have shown a population increase.
Studies continue to be done to help scientists better understand what has happened to the giraffes and what needs to be done to save the them. We know that some of the main causes for the population decreases are the same issues other endangered species are encountering. Poaching for body parts and habitat fragmentation, or completely lost, due to human encroachment, to name a few.
Seems a bit frustrating and overwhelming, doesn't it? I mean, we know human population is growing. We know people will continue to need and use natural resources. Sometimes it seems inevitable that we will see all wildlife go extinct. But please don't jump off that metaphorical cliff just yet.
When we know about these population numbers and share the results of the studies, we can raise awareness. When people find out that we humans are the cause of population drops in other species, we tend to take action. Human caused problems have human solutions. For example, the West African Giraffe was down to a population of about 50 individuals in the mid-1990's. The Niger government granted protection, thanks to that information. Recognizing that appropriate food resources for the giraffes had been minimized, people have worked together in Niger to plant over 5,000 acacia trees. This not only helped the giraffes, but the people too, because it help prevent crop raiding by the giraffes.
For as much as humans do damage to the environment and wildlife, we also come up with amazing solutions to fix and reverse that damage. Of course, conservation can't be done alone, and sometimes we feel too far removed from places like Africa to help. So how can you help? Let me introduce you to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (that's a clickable link, by the way). An organization spearheading and doing much of the work on the ground to save these gentle giants. Also, I recommend checking out Elephants Without Borders. Though their main work is with elephants, they have worked with GCF and others for giraffe conservation, as well as many other species. Both of these organizations are great resources of information and places to make donations. If nothing else, share their story online, share their information on social media. Raising awareness in a very big first step.
Photo Credit: Free image from WIX web gallery.