Save the Giraffes
Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals; they are instantly recognisable as important members of the diverse African savannah.
Habitat degradation and loss is a major factor in the decline of populations. These issues arise from an increasing human population and conversion of land to agriculture and man-made structures, including buildings and roads.
Giraffes are also hunted for their meat, demanded by local communities. In some African cultures, giraffe tails are also used in jewellery as “good luck” charms.
Classified as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN, giraffes have become extinct in many African countries and their numbers are decreasing. Once widely distributed throughout the continent, the giraffes’ habitat is becoming smaller and more fragmented.
The population overall has declined 40 percent in 30 years, and there are now approximately 68,000 left in the wild. The remaining herds are fragmented and face a multitude of threats, from habitat loss to poaching.
The Kordofan giraffe has lost 90 percent of its population since the late 1980s and it is down to just 2,000 individuals in the wild. Similarly, the Nubian giraffe population is down 98 percent and lives only on protected lands in Kenya. According to the IUCN, both subspecies are “critically endangered,” which means they face an “extremely high risk” of extinction in the wild.
Giraffes are known as keystone herbivores; this means that they have a unique role in the ecosystem that would not be filled by another species. Thanks to their long necks, giraffes consume plant species that are out of reach for most other animals. By eating swathes of leaves and shrubbery from the tops of trees, giraffes open up areas of habitat, letting more sun reach the lower levels of vegetation and thus promoting growth of a greater range of plant species. They also distribute the seeds of these species that are out of reach for most other seed dispersers.
Without giraffes, the ecosystem would change and other animals and plants would suffer.
Conservation efforts to save giraffes are largely focused around habitat protection and anti-poaching campaigns. Efforts are underway to reforest key areas with acacia trees – a favourite of the giraffe.
Education and outreach programmes are underway in all the countries where giraffes are still found. The value of giraffes for tourism and ecosystems is being taught to local people and behaviour change programmes are underway.
Further scientific research is needed to improve the understanding of the requirements of the four species of giraffe and identify the key threats.
Social studies are underway to garner a better understanding of the use of giraffes in traditional medicine and for bush meat and how the animals are viewed by local populations.
WSO's Activities and Initiatives
WSO Friend of the Earth carries out the following activities to protect giraffes:
- raise awareness about the threats facing these species.
- launch a petition on Change.org
- raise funds for giraffe’s protection.
- Certify as Friend of the Earth and promote products from sustainable agriculture
Call to action
Help conserve Earth’s tallest species of land animal in their increasingly fragmented habitats.
Choose only Friend of the Earth certified products.
Sign Friend of the Earth petition on Change.org
Donate to Friend of the Earth for giraffe’s conservation.Be sure to get involved with World Giraffe Day on 21 June!