Giraffes heading for 'silent extinction'

Updated: Dec 09, 2016, 20:32 IST | Agencies

The IUCN has listed giraffes under 'vulnerable' category of Red List; conservationists warn of extinction as the animal’s numbers plunge

Washington: The giraffe, the tallest land animal, is now at risk of extinction, biologists say. Because the giraffe population has shrunk nearly 40 per cent in just 30 years, scientists put it on the official watch list of threatened and endangered species worldwide, calling it “vulnerable.”

That’s two steps up the danger ladder from its previous designation of being a species of least concern. In 1985, there were between 1,51,000 and 1,63,000 giraffes but in 2015 the number was down to 97,562, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

At a biodiversity meeting yesterday in Mexico, the IUCN increased the threat level for 35 species on its Red List of threatened species, considered by scientists the official list of what animals and plants are in danger of disappearing.

The giraffe is the only mammal whose status changed on the list this year. Scientists blame habitat loss. While everyone worries about elephants, Earth has four times as many pachyderms as giraffes, said Julian Fennessy and Noelle Kumpel, co-chairs of the speciality group of biologists that put the giraffe on the IUCN Red List. They both called what’s happening to giraffes a “silent extinction.”

Giraffe mayday

Possible reasons

>> Shrinking living space
>> Poaching
>> Disease.

Fact in numbers

13,000
Estimated no. of nearly endangered species

163,000
Approximate no. of giraffes in 1985

97,562
No. of giraffes in 2015

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