One of the Largest Subspecies of Giraffes Is Declared Endangered: the Masai

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One of the Largest Subspecies of Giraffes Is Declared Endangered: the Masai

Conservationists have been sounding the alarm bells on giraffes for several years. In 2016, the IUCN listed giraffes as a whole as vulnerable, the status just above endangered after finding that over three decades giraffes suffered up to a 40 percent population drop, plummeting from an estimated 157,000 individuals to 97,500.

Currently, two of the nine giraffe subspecies—the Kordofan and Nubian—are critically endangered, while the Reticulated is endangered. Now, after a recent assessment, the Masai subspecies has also been listed as endangered. It’s the first time the population has been analyzed on its own, and the status is a big deal since there are an estimated 35,000 individual Masai left, making it one of the largest-remaining subspecies of the gentle giants and, therefore, a key population for keeping the species numbers up.

Previously, the Masai subspecies was the most-populous group of giraffes, with an estimated 71,000 individuals. That drop of 49 to 51 percent of the subspecies in the last 30 years was what prompted the listing, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The United States May List Giraffes as an Endangered Species As Young Population Plummets

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The United States May List Giraffes as an Endangered Species As Young Population Plummets

Between 1985 and 2016, the world's giraffe population plummeted by nearly 40 percent. Just over 97,000 of the long-necked mammals remain in the wild, including 68,000 mature adults—equivalent to less than a quarter of the world’s estimated African elephant population, Michael Biesecker reports for the Associated Press. While elephants were listed as a threatened species under the United States’ Endangered Species Act in 1978, giraffes have yet to receive any such legal protections.

petition filed by environmental and conservation groups in April 2017 may pave the way for giraffes’ addition to the legislative act. According to the statement, the petition presents “substantial information that listing may be warranted,” as threats, including land development, civil unrest, commercial trade and poaching, pose major obstacles to the species’ long-term survival.

DNA Research Explains Giraffes' Long Necks As Global Population Plummets 40%

DNA Research Explains Giraffes' Long Necks As Global Population Plummets 40%

The research team in Tazania believes that the most important take-away from the four-year study is to highlight the critical importance of giraffe conservation. It's estimated that the global giraffe population has fallen 40 percent in just 15 years. Statistically giraffes are more endangered than elephants.

If elephants are threatened by an international demand for ivory, giraffes are threatened with extinction because of the local market for 'bush meat' and demand for skins in the luxury market. Not all species of giraffes are equally threatened.