The bodies of three giraffes were found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in June. They'd been shot for no apparent reason — until people saw that their tails, which are considered a status symbol in the region, had been removed.
This is just one of the ways giraffes have been victimized by human beings. Habitat loss, poaching and human-wildlife conflict because of a booming human population are the main factors driving these animals to extinction.
But almost no one has been talking about this "silent extinction" — until now.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which tracks species populations, just listed giraffes as "vulnerable." Before, the animals were considered of "least concern."
Over the past 30 years, or three generations of giraffes, giraffe populations plummeted nearly 40 percent, from about 163,000 in 1985 to just over 97,000 last year. This means the giraffe is yet another species imminently under threat because of what human beings are doing to the planet.
"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," IUCN co-Chairman Julian Fennessy said in the report.
"Giraffes are affected by habitat loss and conflict, but are also found in commercial trade with hair, skins, tails and other body parts being exported from Africa to markets in America, Europe, and elsewhere," Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, told The Dodo. "The key with giraffes, like so many other species, is to make sure no American citizen buys any products including tourist souvenirs that are made from giraffe parts."
Some people are working very hard to make sure this "silent extinction" is never complete, so giraffes can be safe in the wild. For instance, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), a Namibia-based organization, is working specifically on trying to establish new habitats for giraffes and working toward securing a future for wild giraffes.
"We are increasing our reach, working with partners throughout Africa to enhance giraffe conservation on the ground, while at the same time collaborating with partners internationally to rally support and awareness for giraffe," Steph Fennessy, director of GCF, said. "[This] will ultimately help to save them in the wild in Africa."
To donate to the GCF, click here — or even consider buying one of their giraffe calendars as a gift.