The planet’s tallest animals don’t tally up to a list as long as it used to. According to a new report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), giraffes are at risk for extinction. Their population has shrunk by more than a third in the last three decades.
The conservation group granted the species “Least Concern to Vulnerable” status on its annual Red List of Threatened Species report. This means extinction in the medium-term is inevitable unless interventions are made. According to the IUCN, the accelerating growth rate of the human population in Africa is placing strains on one of the continent’s most quintessential residents. The report specifically points to illegal hunting, habitat loss, civil unrest, and pervasive agriculture and mining as contributors to the problem. Five of the nine subspecies of giraffe are on the decline.
The plight of the white rhinoceros and other endangered species have overshadowed the dwindling giraffe population as of late. But they shouldn’t. In 1985, the population of the long-necked herbivores was a strong 157,000 worldwide. Dropping by 38%, that number is now about 97,500, the IUCN says. “Endangered,” “critically endangered,” “extinct in the wild,” and “extinct” could be the next labels applied if things continue in this direction.
“Whilst giraffes are commonly seen on safari, in the media, and in zoos, people—including conservationists—are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction,” says Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group. “With a decline of almost 40% in the last three decades alone, the world’s tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central, and West Africa. As one of the world’s most iconic animals, it is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late.”
To learn more about the declining giraffe population and other species in need of conservation, see the IUCN’s Red List here. For an uplifting piece of footage, watch this video below of a giraffe being freed from a poacher’s snare.