Harriet, a Masai giraffe, attends to her four-day-old calf at the San Diego Zoo. The male was born on June 16, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 146 lbs. This is Harriet’s second calf; the little one’s father is Silver, the herd’s sire. Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo/Andrew James.
Harriet, a Masai giraffe, attends to her four-day-old calf at the San Diego Zoo. The male was born on June 16, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 146 lbs. This is Harriet’s second calf; the little one’s father is Silver, the herd’s sire.
Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo/Andrew James.

Despite a grim report from world conservationists about a decrease in the world’s population of giraffes, San Diego Zoo officials see a glimmer of hope for the iconic animal.

As of Wednesday, all giraffes are now listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Giraffes were previously listed as species of “least concern.”

The declaration comes three months after the IUCN World Conservation Congress reviewed a report detailing the dwindling numbers of giraffes remaining on the planet.

While the news isn’t good, conservationists say today’s “vulnerable” status declaration may bring attention to the dire state of affairs for giraffes, and greater support for organizations working to stem the tide of giraffes going extinct.

“This status change for giraffes will hopefully mean greater action for giraffe conservation,” said David O’Connor, a community-based conservation ecologist at San Diego Zoo Global. “This announcement could lead to greater focus, attention and vital help for giraffe conservation—so that the giraffe conservation community is able to save these gorgeous, graceful and environmentally important animals, and ensure that they’ll remain the ‘watchtowers of the savanna’ for generations to come.”

According to a news report from San Diego Zoo Global officials, researchers have concluded the world’s population of giraffe continues to decrease collectively, with only a little over 95,000 individuals now left in their native habitats. That is a 40-percent drop over the last 20 years, sparking concern that if the trend continues, the animals could become extinct in the wild within a generation.

In many African countries, some giraffe subspecies have increased in population, while others experienced very dramatic declines of up to 80 percent, according to the report.

“The alarming downward trend is due to poaching, habitat loss and overgrazing of resources by livestock—with certain giraffe subpopulations decreasing so rapidly they have become extinct in seven African nations. San Diego Zoo Global has partnered with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Northern Rangelands Trust, and The Nature Conservancy, as well as other conservation organizations, to help conserve giraffes in East Africa. This year, a team of scientists from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research launched a conservation project with Kenyan pastoralists to find ways to collaborate and protect giraffes in the savanna, including creating a fenced sanctuary for giraffes,” the report read.

“Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global.”

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