In the past 10 years, 4 out of 5 Reticulated giraffes have vanished. Most of us can’t even begin to fathom 4 of our 5 closest friends disappearing from our lives, but for the last remaining Reticulated giraffe this is a daily reality. Since 1999, almost 50% of wild giraffes have disappeared from this planet. If something isn’t done now and current trends continue, within the next 10 years giraffe populations will be completely extinct in the wild!
“I think the situation is quite serious. The first three years I was working in Kenya there was no rain at all. It just didn’t rain. People were starving and coped by eating anything they could find, including giraffe…and it dawned on me that we are actually witnessing a megafaunal extinction happening right now, not seen on this scale since the disappearance of the wooly mammoth at the end of the last ice age.” -As said by John Doherty of the Reticulated Giraffe Project, in the groundbreaking documentary film “The Last of the Longnecks”
So why is this happening to giraffe? The human population across Africa continues to grow, and the changing climate is forcing people to move into new areas, bringing disease and human wildlife conflict. In some areas of new development low hanging power lines are electrocuting giraffe and preventing them from traveling to different areas. Giraffe are poached for their hide, meat and tail hairs. Hides and tail hairs are used to make fly swatters, jewelry, and other tourist souvenirs. A lack of food security is a significant problem for many people across Africa. A large portion of Africa’s people are struggling day to day to feed and nourish their families. When people are starving, a giraffe presents a large amount of meat. Food program development is crucial for the survival of giraffe and other African species.
Even so, giraffes remain an iconic species as they have for thousands of years. They have been gifts to royalty have and inspired artists to memorialize them on cave walls and pyramids! They are represented in the books we read to our children and the first toys we give them as infants. Their beauty and breath taking grace draws tourists to Africa from all over the world. So how is it possible that most people have no idea that wild giraffes are in a crisis and need our help? Every school child learns the threat ivory poses to African elephants, that global warming is harming polar bears, and that hunting and habitat loss is devastating panda populations, but the loss of the majestic giraffe remains a largely silent and unheard. This needs to change and giraffe zookeepers, conservationists and researchers around the globe are working together to draw attention to this very serious issue. The one thing that everyone agrees the average person can do to help is to increase awareness of the problem. Only with awareness, education, and dissemination of the most current information does change come.
So what can you do? It’s always helpful to collect financial contributions for conservation projects that need funding study and save giraffes, but even if you don’t have to have a single dollar, you can help wild giraffes! You can help simply by going to www.giraffeconservation.org and downloading the Giraffe Conservation Guide booklet. Now armed with information you can talk to your friends and relatives about giraffes, make giraffes the focus of a school report, include giraffes in your art, like the Last of the Longnecks and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation on Facebook, participate in a Jeans for Giraffes drive, or visit the giraffes and their keepers at Oakland Zoo.
I live my life everyday surrounded by the giraffes at Oakland Zoo. I can’t even begin to imagine a world without them! One or 2 people can’t save giraffes but all of us together can make a difference. I ask you, if not you, then who? Take a stand and do something for giraffes today!