Giraffes Are Running For Their Lives In Africa

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Poachers are slowly but surely wiping out giraffes in Africa, so much so that three of its rare subspecies face total extinction.

It’s not only rhinos, tigers and elephants that are being hunted by poachers. Giraffes are on the hit list too.

Nine subspecies of giraffes roam the African continent, and although the animal is not yet considered endangered as a whole, some of its less common subspecies have dwindled critically since the past three decades.

Today, the population of giraffes is less than 80,000, according to the African Wildlife Foundation — a drastic reduction from 140,000 in the 1990s. What’s more, three of the nine subspecies have populations lower than 1,000 animals each.

Poaching is especially problematic in regions in and surrounding central Africa like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Kenya.

Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been hit by a wave of poachers in the last few years. Its rhinoceros population has been decimated and the number of elephants has diminished drastically in the country. Its only remaining giraffes total less than 40 in number, according to National Geographic’s David Hamlin.

 

Read More: South Africa Just OK'd Rhino Horn Harvesting

Giraffe tails are considered highly valuable in many African cultures. They are used in good luck charms, fly whisks and threads for sewing or stringing beads. According to Leon Lamprecht, joint operations director for African Parks, men “use the tail as a dowry to the bride’s father if they want to ask for the hand of a bride.”  In DRC, Kordofan giraffe tails are considered a status symbol; however, South Sudanese hunt animals for meat to feed hungry villages.

Tanzania’s national symbol is the giraffe, which is ironic since the country also happens to be the poaching hub for the animal. In 2004, herbal medicinal practitioners in the country started touting beliefs that giraffe’s brains and bone marrow had remedial powers which could prolong the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. The practice that drives poaching to this day has also made the price of the animal’s meat go up.

 

A Tower of Giraffes ?? #zoocation #africanlionsafari #giraffacamelopardalis #rothschildgiraffe

A photo posted by Jenny Dell (@maddhattress) on

 

A report by Rothschild’s Giraffe Project revealed that freshly killed giraffe’s heads and bones can fetch a price of $140.

Now, thanks to rampant poaching, less than 2,000 giraffes roam the African savannahs, according to Julian Fennessy, co-director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Namibia. The 80 Kordofan giraffes in Garamba consist of the last numbers of the subspecies in Congo.

“If the number slips in half, then we’re in a real dire situation,” Fennessy said. “Every single giraffe is valuable.”

Read More: Kenya Burns Over 100 Tons of Ivory Tusks to Protest Poaching
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