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From ‘least concern’ to ‘vulnerable’ – giraffes under threat

The latest report of the IUCN red list was released earlier this week, bringing us a mix of good and bad news, as we experience animal numbers victories and declines.

But perhaps the most talked about due to its unexpectedness by many, is the uplisting of the tallest land mammal, the iconic giraffe, from ‘least concern’ to ‘vulnerable’.

giraffe - pink skies - Jess Murray

Beautiful giraffe portrait ©Jessica Murray

Widespread over much of Africa, newly conducted population surveys have revealed that giraffe populations have declined by a huge 30-40% in just 30 years, and of the nine recognised giraffe subspecies, five of these have decreasing populations.

The factor causing the biggest threat to the rapidly declining numbers is human population growth including habitat loss, illegal hunting, and increasing human-wildlife conflict. All of these factors and more are combining to show evidence that the giraffe is currently going through a silent extinction.

The factor that really troubled my mind was that every single reason for the rapid decline of one of Africa’s most iconic and widely recognised animals was caused by the human race.

It seems highly contradictory that we, as a species, are destroying everything that we claim to love.

giraffe-head-Jess Murray

Beautiful giraffe close-up ©Jessica Murray

This weekend brought us the final episode of the latest Attenborough masterpiece in the form of Planet Earth II. Figures from the UK, where it was aired, revealed that for the first time more young people were watching the nature series than the X Factor – the once highly entertaining and most talked about glamorous talent show. In fact, the BBC announced that in the Mountains episode of the new series, 1.8 million young viewers between the ages of 16-34 tuned in, compared with 1.4 million watching The X Factor during that same weekend.

With the huge rise in social media, millions of different posts are being shared everyday, including the recent rise of video sharing. Through my own conservation Facebook page, I have found that posts about wildlife, demonstrating the bewildering and beautiful natural world, are amongst the posts that seem to be more successful than others. I have found that although there are countless celebrity or materialistic videos or images that are shared, these only seem to stay at the forefront of people’s memories and conversation topics for a matter of minutes, whilst wildlife videos seem to stay talking points for weeks, and in memories forever.

giraffe-etosha-Christian Boix

Giraffe drinking water in Etosha ©Christian Boix

Which begs the question of why we are continuing to destroy habitats and use excessive amounts of harmful products, whilst claiming that it is not our problem.

In my opinion, nature is the source of everything, and the human race is just a by-product. The earth survived before we were on it and it would survive again if we were gone. Yet we cannot survive without the natural world.

During the Christmas period, I have been working in a retail store in the afternoons to earn some extra money for camera equipment. Whilst working in the store I am forced to think about a world without our beloved animals, after spending the mornings writing about often negative conservation news. In the store, we have a baby and child section consisting of numerous books, soft toys and clothes. 95% of these products feature animals. From cuddly toy rabbits, lions and bears and plates with birds and monkeys on, to educational books about animal homes and insect identification kits.

giraffe-Etosha -Christian Boix

Giraffe in Etosha ©Christian Boix

It draws me to think of not just how we would survive without wildlife, but the more trivial questions of what our products would look like, what we would teach our children, and what would replace the comfort that millions of children find in animals during their crucial developmental stage.
I do not want to imagine that world anymore, and I certainly do not want to think that that could soon be a very real reality.

The silent extinction of the giraffe has really drawn home the cruciality of the situation that we are currently facing in the natural world, and what was once a distant thought is now a very real possibility.

It is time for more people to stand up and physically do something about saving the things that we all claim to love, without thinking that “someone else will do it”.

etosha-giraffe-Christian Boix

Giraffe portrait ©Christian Boix

From reducing the use of harmful products and unnatural chemicals, to pledging to never buy ivory. Wherever you live, there are always conservation projects to get involved with, as well as social media posts to share about the devastating effects that the use of everyday products have on our wildlife. Education is crucial, and social media is an incredibly powerful tool to get this message across.

No matter where you are, no matter your age or occupation, we can all do something to spread awareness and stop our animals from becoming extinct due to our activity.

Get up and do something, before it’s too late.

Jess Murray

Hi, I'm Jess! I am a wildlife conservationist passionate about spreading awareness of wildlife conservation issues, specifically the illegal wildlife trade and canned hunting. I believe in spreading awareness through education, and I have been involved in wildlife photography and documentary filmmaking, as well as writing, around South Africa for the past few years since I graduated. I run my own conservation blog and Facebook page , as well as sharing my wildlife photography on my Instagram. I have a particular fascination with the insect world, and hope to learn more about that, although at the other end of the scale elephants are my spirit animal. I have been obsessed with them since I was 2 years old, which is why I feel a strong need to protect them from extinction through conservation education.

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