08 December, 2014

The Plight of the African Giraffe....

"With Australia having the world’s worst record of mammalian extinctions, this article should resonate with Australian conservationists.  We have enough extinctions and threatened species here as it is.

For your general conservation interest.  If you have a few minutes, this is an illuminating read.  But it is another egregious example of the ‘more of us, less of them’ crisis that is engulfing our planet.  It is apropos to remind all of the alarming statistic that mankind, and our farm animals & pets comprise some 97% of vertebrate biomass.  We have effectively almost wiped out the totality of wild species.  And this is in an Africa of less than a billion humans, so can you image the carnage that will be perpetrated by that continent’s growth to 4 billion this century.  The same fate has been happening locally on the Cumberland Plain, as that area’s valuable farmland and remaining natural ecosystems are progressively obliterated by Sydney’s growth.  But we will be told again and again, ad nauseam, that growth provides jobs (and makes the rich  richer) so it must be good; it only takes planning.  Vale the back yard, and more kids raised in high rise boxes, and they’re just 2 of a long list of negative consequences of the endless growth paradigm."

"It's a terrible situation. They could become extinct..."

Since 1999, the human population of Africa has increased by roughly 40% (UN Population Division numbers indicate growth from approximately 808 million to 1.16 billion -- an addition of 352 million people). In a prime example of bitter irony, we now learn that the African giraffe population has declined by roughly 40% in that same time frame (from 140,000 down to 80,000).

The story below was printed in the International Business Times and gives the basics of the frustrating and outrageous situation.

The African Wildlife Foundation notes on its website that giraffe habitat is shrinking -- as human populations grow and increase agricultural activities, expand settlements, and construct roads. As a result, the giraffe is losing its beloved acacia trees, which are its main source of food. Unfortunately, giraffe tails are also highly prized by many African cultures. The desire for good-luck bracelets, fly whisks, and thread for sewing or stringing beads have led people to kill the giraffe for its tail alone. Worse, Some countries believe consuming parts of the animal can actually cure HIV/AIDS. Poachers collect the giraffe heads and bones that they can sell as trophies for up to $140 a piece.

African Giraffe 'Silent' Extinction: How Disappearance Of World's Tallest Animal Went Largely Unnoticed

Africa's giraffes are on a slow march toward extinction due to the pressures of poaching and habitat loss, conservation experts have warned. Illegal hunting and human population growth have reduced the overall African giraffe population by roughly 40 percent over the past 15 years, according to the latest data revealed this week by the Namibia-based Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

And until recently, hardly anyone had noticed. Unlike the plight of some of Africa's other iconic wildlife, like the mountain gorilla and the rhino, the giraffe's decline has happened largely off conservationists' radar. "It's a silent extinction," Julian Fennessy, executive director of the conservation group, told ABC News. In some countries, only a few hundred giraffes remain. The group's full report is expected to be published next year.

The wildlife group found that there were 140,000 giraffes in Africa in 1999. Today, there are fewer than 80,000, according to the foundation. In Niger, less than 300 West African giraffes - one of the continent's nine subspecies of giraffe - have survived. Fewer than 700 Rothschild's giraffes exist between Uganda and Kenya. Two giraffe species have already been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of endangered species. The new figures could push other subspecies onto the list.

"There are nine different races, and we're probably going to lose some of them. It's a terrible situation. They could become extinct," Canadian giraffe expert Anne Dagg told The Times.

Wildlife experts blamed a variety of factors for the African giraffe's decline, including hunting and habitat fragmentation caused by urbanization. Poachers have long targeted the world's tallest animal for their flesh, as well as their skin, which is used to make several types of clothing, Discovery reported.

"In rural African communities, bush meat not only forms a large part of the diet but also provides an important source of income," Zoe Muller, a researcher for the Rothschild Giraffe Project, wrote in a report published in 2010, according to ABC. Some countries believe consuming parts of the animal can actually cure HIV/AIDS. Other poachers collect the giraffe heads and bones that they can sell as trophies for up to $140 a piece, according to Muller.

How the giraffe's decline went unnoticed has to do in part with the ubiquity of its image in popular culture. "Giraffes are everywhere," David O'Connor, research coordinator with the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, told Scientific American. "Look at kids' books, which are full of giraffes. They're always in zoo collections." Conservation efforts to protect giraffes have often lagged those for other endangered African animals. The reason comes down to a lack of resources, according to experts.

"Giraffes are the forgotten megafauna," O'Connor told Scientific American. "They're really not getting the attention they deserve."


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