Giraffes are in danger of disappearing due to a plague epidemic

If nothing is done, the wild giraffe could soon be over. Researchers from the authoritative Giraffe Conservation Foundation from Namibia warn about this.

There is no child who does not know what a giraffe is. Everyone knows the majestic animal that rocks gracefully over the savannahs like a classic three-master. In Kenya’s capital Nairobi it is even possible to kiss giraffes. Yet the giraffe is in serious danger. According to researchers from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) in Namibia, there are only 117,000 specimens left, down from a million in the 1800s.

“The decline is due to a massive epidemic of rinderpest,” explains Stephany Fennesy, director of GCF. “And in the last 35 years it is due to the shrinking of the habitat due to human habitation.”

A recent international study commissioned by the GCF mapped this decline. Previous GCF research also shows that there are four species of giraffe instead of one. However, these newly discovered species appear not to want to interbreed in the wild. This is the phenomenon of ‘reproductive isolation’, which evolutionarily is thought to exist to keep species pure. The giraffes are picky in their choice of partners and they only mate with their own kind. This limits the ability to produce offspring.


Moreover, the dramatic decline in the number of giraffes is happening almost silently. “A giraffe attracts less attention,” sighs Fennesy. “There is no large-scale poaching for giraffes, and everyone thought the animals were doing well because they stood out in safari parks.” This allowed the giraffe to quietly decline in numbers. Fennesy: “There is now one giraffe left compared to four elephants. It is time to also pay attention to giraffes.”

Fennesy and GCF have started a lobby with important institutions to have the giraffe classified as a critically endangered species so that money can be made available for conservation programs.