“Can’t a good thing happen, world??” you have likely wailed at the sky at some point over the past month. The world’s response, evidently, is “No, sorry. Say goodbye to giraffes, the best animal!”
According to the latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released on Thursday at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, there are only about 97,000 giraffes left in the wild, a decline of 38% since 1985. Due to this incredibly steep drop, the giraffe has jumped two categories from “Least Concern” to “Vulnerable.” From The Guardian:
As the human population in Africa rises, habitat loss from farming and deforestation, illegal hunting and the impact of civil wars are all pushing the creature towards extinction.
“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,” said Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN’s giraffe and okapi specialist group. “It is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late,” he said.
In 2014, giraffe researcher Julian Fennessy referred to the animals as the “forgotten megafauna” in a New York Times interview, noting that there’s been a “massive paucity of information about giraffes.” Recent research has found that female giraffes form years-long friendships, and mother giraffes mourn their dead; they’re also vital pollinators, distributing seeds across landscapes as they munch on foliage. In just September of this year, it was discovered that giraffes are actually four distinct species with significant genetic differences: the southern giraffe, the Masai giraffe, the reticulated giraffe and the northern giraffe.
Thanks to the activity of our own shitty species, the planet is in the midst of a massive crisis now widely known as the “sixth extinction.” The IUCN Red List now includes 85,604 species, 24,307 of which are currently threatened with extinction; this list also includes the iconic and now-endangered African grey parrot, known for its ability to mimic human speech. Critical conservation efforts have helped restore some populations, such as the Seychelles white eye, but “many species are slipping away before we can even describe them,” IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said.
“This IUCN Red List update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought. Governments gathered at the UN biodiversity summit in Cancun have the immense responsibility to step up their efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity—not just for its own sake but for human imperatives such as food security and sustainable development.”