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Click here for Linda Moulton Howe's 2017 Bio.

Disturbing 40% Decline in Earth's Giraffes Since 1987 —
Another 21st Century Extinction?

© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe

 

Adopt A Giraffe to Save from Extinction!

Giraffe Conservation Foundation

https://giraffeconservation.org/donate/

 

January 27, 2017 Eros, Windhoek, Namibia - Along with the depressing headlines in December 2016 about the rapid decline of cheetahs came more headlines that giraffes have lost nearly half their population in just the last 30 years and are now also facing the risk of extinction this century.

We have all been hearing about Earth being in a 6th mass extinction because of human impact on once-natural habitats that are being developed for farms or houses or other human needs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the IUCN, reported in early December 2016 that the number of species now on its Red List totals more than 85,000, with more than 24,000 at risk of extinction — including the world's tallest animal, the giraffe.

The Co-Chair of the IUCN's giraffe and okapi specialist group and Director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation is Julian Fennessee, Ph.D. He says, "While giraffes are commonly seen on safari, in the media and in zoos, most people — including conservationists — are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction.A entury ago, there were an estimated million giraffes in the world. But in the last 30 years alone, the giraffe population has fallen 40%! It is time that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late."


Interview:


Julian Fennessy, Ph.D., Director of the Giraffe
Conservation Foundation and Co-Chair IUCN Species
Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group,
Eros, Windhoek, Namibia

 

 

Julian Fennessy, Ph.D., Director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and Co-Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group, Eros, Windhoek, Namibia: “The 40 percent decline of giraffes in the last 30 years obviously comes as a shock to many people. But it was likely a hundred years ago there was estimated maybe a million giraffe. So we have less than 10 percent of giraffe in the last hundred years than what we thought we had. And in some areas, we've estimated decline in the last 40 years by more than 95 percent. So this is really frightening.

IF A HUNDRED YEARS AGO THERE WERE A MILLION GIRAFFES IN AFRICA, AND ONLY IN THE LAST 30 YEARS THAT NUMBER HAS DROPPED BY 40 PERCENT, WHICH IS NEARLY HALF, HOW WOULD YOU REVERSE THIS RAPID, AND SUDDEN, AND STARTLING DECLINE OF THE GIRAFFES WITH A GROWING HUMAN POPULATION?

It's a really difficult challenge, there's no doubt about that. And we have to be realistic that we may never get back to those same numbers. But what we can do is we can focus on areas where we can make a difference and a change before it is too late. It would be a really sad day to ever ponder the thought that giraffe would go extinct. Everyone in the world knows what a giraffe is.

ISN'T IT TRUE THAT AS THE HUMAN POPULATION HAS BEEN EXPANDING, IT HAS BEGUN TO ATTACK GIRAFFES FOR MEAT AND FOOD LIKE NEVER BEFORE?

In certain areas there has been an increase. And most of that has been in areas where there's been civil war and unrest. So in parts of eastern and central Africa where people are struggling to live and survive, they've been feeding off bush meat like giraffe and other animals. So that has been where the major impact for bush meat has been on giraffe.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE IN TANZANIA ABOUT WHY THEY SHOULD NOT BE KILLING GIRAFFES FOR FOOD?

You know, to lose the largest animal in the world where in the country where giraffe is in the national anthem, we need to do something now. So what needs to happen is there needs to be a change in the system. There needs to be better community-based conservation so people can get involved in the conservation of wildlife and the areas that they live, and benefit. Whether it's bringing in ecotourism and the jobs associated with it. So we need to provide opportunity through government and non-government organizations to say, "OK, guys. If we're going to save this wildlife before it's too late, we need to find opportunities." And those opportunities will differ across the country, and definitely across the region, but this needs to be an effort around the world. We've lost too many animals. But the reality is there is poaching, there is illegal hunting. And what we need to do is try and put a stop to it and minimize it as much as possible.

WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN WITH YOUR OWN EYES ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE GIRAFFE THAT IS KILLING IT OFF SO RAPIDLY?

A couple years ago we were up in an area near the border of South Sudan looking to count and then also collect DNA samples from darting giraffe and put on the first ever GPS satellite collars of giraffe in these areas to figure out where they go. We have no clue. No one had ever worked on giraffe in this area of Ethiopia. And we'd put on a couple of collars, and we were very happy. But on the last day we went out and we went looking for some more giraffe to put collars on and get samples. What happened is as we were flying low close to the giraffe, we saw a herd of cattle. And with them were herdsmen who had come from South Sudan and stolen all these cattle and were walking through the national park. And as we flew over, we saw them lift their guns and fire AK-47s at us. So as we flew over them, they lifted their AK-47s and fired at us, and the bullets went everywhere. Luckily, we didn't get hit. The helicopter did, but we had a great pilot who got us away quickly. We pulled away and put the helicopter down a couple of kilometers away. But here you are trying to save giraffe. People are struggling living on the ground. But unfortunately the collared giraffe that we'd already set up were actually killed about a year later. So all of this effort to try and conserve and save giraffe, unfortunately is not what others are out there doing. They're just trying to live, some of them. Some of them are doing it for corrupt reasons. Some of them are doing it just to feed their family. This is really dangerous. We are trying to make a difference before it's too late.

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU MOVED GIRAFFES, OR TRIED TO MOVE GIRAFFES AND HAD THEM KILLED BY THE SURROUNDING POPULATION?

So we've moved a number of giraffe across Africa, and mostly within countries, but some of them have moved across boundaries of countries. Most of the time, it's been a great success story. But unfortunately sometimes there's communities that live in areas surrounding areas that are just not as aware about wildlife. They haven't been in close contact or they haven't seen a giraffe forever in their lifetime, so unfortunately in one of the populations we moved in Uganda, one of the giraffe did branch out to an area and unfortunately was speared by a local person. And this is really devastating because you put so much time and money and effort into these initiatives. But this is not the norm, which is good. And with the partners that we help move these giraffe, we have good education programs. So important that we've got to learn from these mistakes and hopefully do our homework beforehand in these areas and enable people to better understand why we're moving these animals and what's the benefit for them in the area. Giraffe have already become extinct in seven countries in Africa, so what we don't want is that to continue. So what we need to say is, "Well, I don't want giraffe to be extinct in the next 85 years, so what can we do now to put in place the methods and practices to be able to pause this decline rapidly and save giraffe?"

IF GIRAFFE POPULATIONS DID GO TO EXTINCTION, WHAT WOULD BE THE IMPACT ON THE GENERAL BIODIVERSITY OF AFRICA?

If giraffe went extinct altogether, it would really have an impact on especially the wooded savanna environments. Giraffe are big browsers. They feed mostly on trees, and what they do is they pollinate those trees as they move from tree to tree. And they also swallow the seeds, and they become dispersers of those plants, setting up new populations of trees and hopefully whole treed savannas across the landscape. So if we were to lose, say, giraffe, elephant, and let's black rhino—all three major large browsers in Africa—we would probably end up with some very large grassland areas Africa versus the treed savannas that we have. And a result of that will be a loss of species diversity. Many of the animals of Africa, including everything from the insects all the way up to other antelopes, are really reliant on giraffe and other animals to be able to keep these landscapes open to be able to create new wooded environments. So we know that something will happen as a result of them going extinct. Bottom line is funding will help us. You can adopt a giraffe. You can become a giraffe guardian or explorer, which will really provide valuable funding to be able to work with communities, governments, and partners across Africa, while at the same time learn and get feedback regularly about what's happening with the giraffe that you adopt and the areas that we work.

SO ADOPTING IS A WAY TO HAVE AN ONGOING FUND WHERE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO SEE GIRAFFES, CHEETAH, AND OTHERS SURVIVE, IF THEY ADOPT AN ANIMAL, THEN IT GOES THROUGH THE GIRAFFE CONSERVATION FOUNDATION AND THIS COULD BE A REGULAR STREAM OF MONEY SUPPORT FOR THE ANIMALS, EVEN IF IT'S ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS?

That's correct. The Adopt-a-Giraffe program is something that really connects people with wildlife in Africa. And people can provide an annual subscription, and then you get to adopt an individual with support. You get updates, you get photos of your animal you've adopted, and it's really wild animals. We're not talking about an orphanage or anything like that, or a zoo animal. We're talking about an animal living in the wild across the whole of Africa.

AND THAT WE HERE IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, WE COULD PUT SOME MONEY INTO AN INDIVIDUAL ANIMAL AND HAVE A RELATIONSHIP THROUGH THE WEB AND PHOTOS SO THAT WE KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THAT GIRAFFE OR CHEETAH?

Correct. A personal connection is really valuable for all of us. We want to know what is happening. And the adopt program through GCF really is about connecting people with giraffe. And we find that it's one of the most amazing ways to be able to see a change in how people understand and appreciate wildlife and hopefully sort of the challenges that they have. We really encourage people to support and adopt an animal and be an ambassador for giraffe.

IT FEELS TO ME THAT WE WOULD BE LOSING THE SOUL OF THIS PLANET EARTH IF THESE BEAUTIFUL, INCREDIBLE ANIMALS THAT HAVE BEEN HERE FOR SO LONG WOULD GO EXTINCT IN THE 21ST CENTURY BECAUSE OF OVERPOPULATION BY HUMANS.

It would be sad. That's what we're trying to stop. In our lifetime, I don't want to see giraffe decline any further. And really, I think people need to think about what we're doing and hopefully turn around this trend that's been really bad over the last many, many years.”

 

Also see:

• 08/28/2014 — Earth Life Is Dying In A 6th Mass Extinction As Great As Asteroid Hit 65 Million Years Ago - But This Time the Cause Is Humans.

 


For further information about 6th mass extinction of Earth now, please see reports in the Earthfiles Archive organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2016 ongoing of which a few are listed here.

• 11/03/2016 — Latest World Wildlife Report Shows Steep Declines — World's Vertebrate Populations Half of What They Were In 1970.
• 12/18/2015 — Will New Paris Climate Agreement Be Able to Limit Global Warming to 2 Degrees C. (3.6 deg. F.) Above Pre-Industrial Temperatures?
• 09/24/2015 — What Has Killed Nearly A Quarter Million Saiga Antelopes Since May 2015 in Central Kazakhstan?
• 08/31/2014 — Part 2: Is The Dulce ET Underground Lab Linked to ETs from Zeta Reticuli 1 and Sirius B?
• 08/28/2014 — Earth Life Is Dying In A 6th Mass Extinction As Great As Asteroid Hit 65 Million Years Ago - But This Time the Cause Is Humans.
• 08/27/2014 — Sea Stars Continue to Die By the Millions from Alaska to California: Is It A Virus?
• 08/15/2008 — Amphibian Warning Bell of Mass Extinctions
• 12/22/2001 — Scientists Warn That Climate and Earth Life Can Change Rapidly
• 10/25/1999 — A Mysterious "Perturber" at the Edges of Our Solar System


Websites:

Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF): https://giraffeconservation.org

IUCN Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group: http://www.giraffidsg.org/giraffe/

"Giraffes facing extinction after devastating decline, experts warn," December 8, 2016, The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/08/giraffe-red-list-vulnerable-species-extinction

"Giraffes facing 'silent extinction' as population plunges," December 8, 2016, BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38240760

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org


 

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