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  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Protecting the Graceful Giants of Africa

Known as one of the most iconic animals native to the open savannahs and wooded grasslands of eastern and southern Africa, is the world's tallest mammal, the giraffe.

Towering up to 19 feet, giraffes roam the grasslands with their long legs and distinctive pattern, which truly gives them a uniquely beautiful appearance.

Giraffes are mild by nature, and with their 'horns,' pointed ears, thick eyelashes, and long and lean limbs, they have successfully mastered the art of appearing giant, and sometimes goofy, yet simultaneously graceful.

What appears to be their horns, are called ossicones, which are formed from ossified cartilage and are covered in skin.

Giraffes are plant eaters, and with the help of their long necks and tongues, they pull leaves from the trees and consume over 100 lbs. of leaves and twigs a day.

This amazing species is unfortunately at risk, as their population is decreasing. Giraffes are currently listed as 'Vulnerable' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Some threats to the giraffe population are the loss of habitat (e.g., deforestation, expansion of agricultural activities), legal and illegal hunting (e.g., meat trade, poaching, hide, bone, trophy hunting, etc.), and ecological changes.

Between 2006 and 2015, US hunters imported 3,744 giraffe hunting trophies, contributing to the plunging of Africa’s giraffe population which was almost 40% in the past 30 years.(1)

Due to the lack of public awareness regarding their population decline, many scientists began referring to the loss of giraffes as the 'Silent Extinction' in 2016. Because giraffes are kept in zoos, that additionally creates the misconception that the species is not in danger.

Animals demonstrate abnormal behavior when in captivity in comparison to their natural environment, which leads to a noneducational experience for those visiting the zoo; a no-win situation, except for those making a profit off ticket sales. Such captivity also prevents necessary biodiversity within their natural habitat. The conservation of giraffes in the wild is vital for their survival, as well as other species.

In April 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a petition with the US Department of Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) seeking an 'Endangered' status for giraffes under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Adding Giraffes to the ESA would increase awareness about this direr matter, and provide funding for their conservation, which will help protect these magnificent creatures from extinction.

Based on the Federal laws noted in the petition, the US Secretary of Interior had 90 days to determine whether or not the petition presented "substantial scientific or commercial information," and if so, follow up with a complete review of the status of the species, and publish a finding on whether or not protecting the Giraffe under the ESA is warranted. If so warranted, a rule to add the species must be proposed within one year upon receipt of the petition, making that deadline approximately April 18, 2018.(1) However, according to the USFWS website, the petition is still under review.

StraightTwist will post updates as they become available.

(1) Petition To List The Giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis) Under The Endangered Species Act,


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