Good work, humans! Once again, in a startling feat of “messing up nature and then just kind of denying that anything’s really wrong,” we’ve destroyed so much of the giraffe’s natural habitat that the animal — the tallest in the world! — is now on a swift decline, with numbers of giraffes plunging dangerously within the past 30 years. How dangerously? New information reveals that almost 40 percent of giraffes have disappeared from the earth between 1985 and 2015 and so our black-tongued leaf-eating friends have now been placed upon the “red list” created by the Union for the Conservation of Nature.
According to The Guardian, which analyzed the list for our horror and benefit, if these trends continue, we’re looking at a much bigger crisis than we’ve been expecting (isn’t that always the way?) with more and more animals becoming extinct — some before they’ve even had a chance to be described, let alone studied — and relatives of crop plants (used to breed hardier and new varieties of the plants we use for food) disappearing as we bulldoze over them in the name of expansion.
The new red list found the giraffe population had plummeted from about 157,000 to 97,500 in the last 30 years and the species had jumped two IUCN categories from “least concern” to now “vulnerable”. As the human population in Africa rises, habitat loss from farming and deforestation, illegal hunting and the impact of civil wars are all pushing the creature towards extinction.
“Whilst giraffes are commonly seen on safari, in the media and in zoos, people – including conservationists – are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction,” said Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN’s giraffe and okapi specialist group. “It is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late,” he said.
Cute wordplay, but it’s also an important reminder of why we should be rooting for the giraffe who broke the internet a few weeks ago when it killed a lion trying to eat it. Although, to be fair, lions aren’t doing so hot, either. According to the latest figures, the African lion’s numbers have been cut in half since 1990.
All these results will be presented on Thursday at the UN’s Biodiversity Summit, where experts agree that world leaders need to sit down, face the realities of what’s going on, and then make a concerted effort to remind themselves, their countries, and the entire world, that humans need to chill for a second and let animals just live, okay? Let’s hope they listen.