By Andy Mouss
Experts estimate that the world’s tallest land animal will be critically endangered by the year 2024
Giraffes, the largest land animals on the planet, may face rapid extinction in the coming years. The declining population of the species is not necessarily recent news to scientists - the Giraffe was actually placed on an endangered watchlist in 2016 after the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted Giraffe populations shrunk from 163,000 in 1985 to 97,562 in 2015 - but the sheer rate at which Giraffe populations are declining have vastly exceeded previous estimates. Since 2015, Giraffe populations have declined from 97,562 to 68,294; that’s 30% in only 3 years. If this rapid decline continues, IUCN predicts the Giraffe could become extinct as early as 2027.
What is the cause of this rapid decline? Sue Donum, a biologist with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says that it has to do with a combination of deforestation and rising climate temperature.
“What you’ve got to understand is, a Giraffe’s diet is composed almost entirely of the leaves and twigs of trees that fall into the genus: Wattles. What we’ve seen in the last few years is that the territory of Giraffes is shrinking at a near exponential rate from humans taking up land for development; which is vastly reducing the overall supply of Wattle trees. Combine that with rising climate change that is killing off Wattles at a rapid rate, and the Giraffe populations just don’t have enough food to sustain themselves. And, while Giraffes are by no means the only creature to be threatened by these factors, their long neck and their particular digestive makeup make it hard for them to adapt to other dietary sources.”
The Giraffe isn’t completely doomed yet, however. The World Wildlife Fund and the IUCN are teaming up to try and preserve Giraffe populations in sub-Saharan Africa by creating protected spaces and making a coordinated effort to replant Wattle trees.
“The situation is dire, but we’re going to do our absolute best to try and protect our long-necked friends,” commented Sebastian Riquet, a representative from IUCN.