The population of African giraffes has decreased by 40 percent over the last 15 years, new research shows, pushing the world’s tallest animal closer to extinction.
Fewer than 80,000 giraffes are roaming sub-Saharan Africa today, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, compared to more than 140,000 reported in 1999 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The most threatened subspecies are the West African giraffe and the Rothschild’s giraffe, according to GCF. Both are currently on the endangered species list.
Most to blame for the drastic plunge in numbers are human population growth and migration, especially in conflict-ridden areas like Somalia and Ethiopia, according to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species report.
Poaching, particularly in Tanzania, is another major cause, as Rothschild’s are routinely hunted for their brains and bone marrow, which some locals believe can cure them of HIV and AIDS, Dr. Julian Fennessy, GCF’s executive director told ABC News.
Poachers can make up to $140 for a freshly severed giraffe head or bones, researcher Zoe Muller said in a 2010 Rothschild’s Giraffe Project report.
The IUCN report says about 40 percent of the remaining giraffe population lives around protected areas, including the Waza National Park in Cameroon, Zakouma National Park in Chad, Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, and in facilities in five other countries.