No one used to pay much mind to the giraffes that roamed Africa. But new numbers from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature show a significant decline in their population over the past three decades and have conservationists worried that the elegant creature is falling victim to what one IUCN expert calls a "silent extinction," the BBC reports.
In 1985, there were between 152,000 and 163,000 giraffes, but that number dropped to 97,000 by 2015—a "devastating decline" of nearly 40% that now moves the animal from the "least concern" category into the "vulnerable" one on the group's Red List.
"While there [has] been great concern about elephants and rhinos, giraffes have gone under the radar," says Dr. Fennessy, co-director of the IUCN's Giraffe Conservation arm.
The updated Red List, released Thursday at a biological diversity conference in Cancun, Mexico, points to man as the main driver of the declining stats, with poaching, habitat loss, and local unrest all assuming partial blame.
A Duke University conservation biologist says the IUCN is partly to blame, too, for not considering more species threatened. "There's a strong tendency to think that familiar species [such as giraffes, chimps, etc.] must be OK because ... we see them in zoos," he tells the AP.
"This is dangerous." Some good news, at least for some long-neckers: Of the nine giraffe subspecies, three of them are experiencing increasing populations; one is stable.
This article originally appeared on Newser: A Surprise 'Silent Extinction': GiraffesMore From Newser
- With Nowhere to Land, Geese Descend, Die On Toxic Water
- Environmentalists Horrified by Trump's Pick to Run EPA
- Mosquitoes Are Booming in US for Some Surprising Reasons
- 'Psychedelic Slinky' Spotted for First Time in 100 Years