Conservationists are officially calling on the US government to categorise giraffes as an endangered species after warning of their ‘silent extinction.’
An official legal petition has been lodged by five environmental groups, demanding that the US Fish and Wildlife Service undertake renewed measures to protect the giraffe, which has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers over recent years.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature claims that just 97,500 of the animals exist in sub-Saharan Africa today, a decrease of almost 40 percent from 1985 – meaning that there are now fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa.
It’s claimed that the decline is due to a loss of habitat, disease, and illegal hunting for bushmeat. Giraffes are also said to be threatened by overhanging power lines, along with trophy hunters who travel to Africa to shoot large animals.
Specifically, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature claims that American tourists are the biggest hunters, having imported 21,402 bone carvings, 3,008 skin pieces and 3,744 miscellaneous hunting trophies from giraffes over the past decade.
Jeff Flocken, North America regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: ‘When I was doing research on giraffes in Kenya a few years ago, they were quite abundant and no one questioned that they were doing well.
‘Only recently have we looked at them critically and seen this huge drop, which has been a shock to the conservation community. This is an iconic animal and it’s in deep trouble.’
The US government is yet to respond to the petition.