In another sign of the human population’s mismanagement of our dear planet Earth, scientists have declared a subspecies of giraffe endangered.
On Thursday (July 11) the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the endangered status of Masai giraffes, a subspecies spread throughout Kenya and Tanzania, primarily due to poaching and changes in land use.
An estimated 35,000 Masai giraffes remain, however their population has decreased by nearly 50 per cent in the last three decades. Over the same time frame, Africa’s entire giraffe population has fallen by 40 per cent, National Geographic reports.
According to Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center of Biological Diversity, the Masai giraffe is iconic, the ‘quintessential’ giraffe you’d think of picturing the animal.
The announcement of this species to be declared endangered is a wake-up call, Sanerib says.
She told National Geographic:
This was devastating news…It really sounds the alarm bell.
It really indicates that we need to be doing more for giraffes internationally and with whatever tools are available.
Giraffes as a general species (Giraffa camelopardalis) are already included on the IUCN’s Red List as ‘vulnerable’, however this is the first time the Masai subspecies (Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. tippelskirchi) has been assessed on its own.
‘Endangered’ is a step closer to extinction than ‘vulnerable’.
There are nine subspecies; Masai and reticulated giraffes are endangered, Nubian and Kordofan giraffes are critically endangered.
While poaching is illegal in Kenya and Tanzania, they are poached for their hide, meat, bones and tails.
An estimated 2-10 per cent of their population is hunted illegally in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the IUCN say.
Civil unrest and emerging markets for giraffe parts – including tail-hair jewellery and bone carvings – has led to the increase in poaching.
Tanzanian media have reported there is a belief that giraffe bone marrow and brains can cure HIV and AIDS.
Julian Fennessy, co-director and co-founder of the nonprofit Giraffe Conservation Foundation, said:
They’re the forgotten megafauna, so to speak.
They’ve sort of slipped away, sadly, while more attention has been given to elephant, rhino, lion, and other species.
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.