Invisible' extinction: Giraffe population down 40%

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'Invisible' Extinction: Giraffe Population Down 40%


A decline of 40% in the last 15 years and on the brink of extinction.

That's the way things are looking for the world's tallest animal, the giraffe, according to Giraffe Conservation Foundation. 15 years ago, 140,000 giraffes roamed Africa the group says. Now, their numbers are down to just 80,000.

There's currently nine subspecies of the giraffe. The GCF says six of those nine are decreasing and/or unstable and two, the Rothschild giraffe and the West African giraffe are officially listed as endangered.

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Invisible' extinction: Giraffe population down 40%
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation says there were 140,000 giraffes 15 years ago. Now, their numbers are down to 80,000.
(FILES) - Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on Febuary 9, 2014 despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was put down with a bolt gun early on Sunday, zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro confirmed. KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/Getty Images
A 10-day-old Rothschild giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) named Margaret is fed by her keeper, Tim Rowlands, at Chester Zoo, Chester, England, Wednesday Jan. 30, 2008. The 1.2 meter (5 ft) 34 kg (75 lb) giraffe was born two weeks early and is the first calf for her six-year-old mother Fay who was having difficulty suckling hence the need for hand-rearing. (AP Photo/Jon Super).
A three-month-old male Rothschild's giraffe named Frantisek nibbles a willow's branch during his christening party at the zoo in Olomouc, 300 kilometers (186miles) east of Prague, Czech Republic, on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. Frantisek is the 39th offspring born in this zoo. (AP Photo/CTK, Vladislav Galgonek) ***SLOVAKIA OUT***
A picture taken on April 20, 2014 shows five-day-old Rothschild giraffe Jabulani at the Zoo-Aquarium in Madrid. AFP PHOTO / DANI POZO (Photo credit should read DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
The young Rothschild Giraffe Jamal runs at the zoo in Leipzig, eastern Germany, on February 21, 2014. The giraffe bull born on January 18, 2014 was baptized Jamal, meaning 'Beauty'. AFP PHOTO / DPA/ SEBASTIAN WILLNOW GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read SEBASTIAN WILLNOW/AFP/Getty Images)
Rothschild's giraffe baby Katja is pictured at the Opelzoo in Kronberg, Germany on January 7, 2014. The animal was born on January 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DPA / FRANK RUMPENHORST +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read FRANK RUMPENHORST/AFP/Getty Images)
Female Ugandan giraffe 'Lotti' chews on branches at her enclosure at Berlin's Tierpark zoo April 19, 2013. Rothschild's giraffe is one of the most endangered giraffe subspecies with only a few hundred members in the wild. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
KENYA - 2013/10/25: Endangered Rothschild's giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) at Lake Nakuru National Park in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A picture taken on April 20, 2014 shows five-day-old Rothschild giraffe Jabulani at the Zoo-Aquarium in Madrid. AFP PHOTO / DANI POZO (Photo credit should read DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
A young male Rothschild giraffe is presented at the zoo in the eastern German city of Leipzig on March 5, 2012. The giraffe, born on February 22, 2012 belongs to the most endangered giraffe subspecies with only a few hundred members in the wild. AFP PHOTO / PETER ENDIG GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read PETER ENDIG/AFP/Getty Images)
Giraffe Manor, Rothschild's Giraffe, Kenya (Photo by: EyeOn/UIG via Getty Images)
Ugandan giraffe 'Shahni' licks her 20 days old daughter on September 15, 2010 in their enclosure at the zoo in Hanover, central Germany. The baby giraffe is the 50th giraffe born at the zoo. In the wild, Ugandan giraffes also known as Rothschild giraffes are an endangered species. AFP PHOTO HOLGER HOLLEMANN GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read HOLGER HOLLEMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
Rothschild Giraffe, Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa (Photo by: EyeOn/UIG via Getty Images)
CHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 30: Margaret, the 10-day-old Giraffe, is bottle fed by Chester Zoo keeper Tim Rowlands on January 30, 2008, in Chester, England. Margaret is the first Rothschild giraffe born at the zoo and is being hand reared after having difficulty suckling from her mother. Margaret, who is named after keeper Tim's mother, already measures 1.2m (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Rothschild Giraffe, Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa (Photo by: EyeOn/UIG via Getty Images)
Rothschild's giraffe Kitoja waits in a trailer to leave the zoo in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Thursday, May 22, 2014. The giraffe was born a year ago in Gelsenkirchen and will be transported to the zoo in Amneville in France. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
The young Rothschild giraffe Jamal, right, stands in front of his flock at the zoo in Leipzig, Germany, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The giraffe born on Jan. 18, 2014, is called Jamal, that means 'Beauty'. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
(FILES) - Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on Febuary 9, 2014 despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was put down with a bolt gun early on Sunday, zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro confirmed. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK / KASPER PALSNOV +++ DENMARK OUT +++ (Photo credit should read KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/Getty Images)
(FILES) - Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on Febuary 9, 2014 despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was put down with a bolt gun early on Sunday, zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro confirmed. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK / KASPER PALSNOV +++ DENMARK OUT +++ (Photo credit should read KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/Getty Images)
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - FEBRUARY 8: An 18-month-old giraffe named Marius (Rear 2nd L) will be slept on Sunday before Copenhagen zoo to kill surplus young giraffe and feed him to the lions in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 8, 2014. Animal rights campaigners in Denmark are trying to save a healthy young giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo from being destroyed. (Photo by Irfan Cemiloglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - FEBRUARY 8: An 18-month-old giraffe named Marius (R) will be slept on Sunday before Copenhagen zoo to kill surplus young giraffe and feed him to the lions in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 8, 2014. Animal rights campaigners in Denmark are trying to save a healthy young giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo from being destroyed. (Photo by Irfan Cemiloglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - FEBRUARY 8: An 18-month-old giraffe named Marius (C) will be slept on Sunday before Copenhagen zoo to kill surplus young giraffe and feed him to the lions in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 8, 2014. Animal rights campaigners in Denmark are trying to save a healthy young giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo from being destroyed. (Photo by Irfan Cemiloglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The foundation says the main reason for such a steep decline is mainly from a loss of habitat and poaching.

But unlike elephants and rhinos being poached for their tusks or horns, giraffes are often poached for a different reason - their meat.

UK outlet The Week writes, "Giraffe meat is said to be sweet and is popular among locals. Some traditional healers even tout giraffe meat – particularly the bone marrow and brains – as a cure for HIV/Aids, fueling the illegal trade."

Speaking to ABC, executive director of the GCF Julien Fennessy called it a "silent extinction" and the outlet, quoting another giraffe conservation expert, reports killing giraffes is easier than killing other animals and provides more meat for the effort.

Efforts are underway to help protect the giraffes and the Association to Safeguard Giraffes in Niger has reported increasing numbers of West African giraffes in the area in recent years.

Fennessy says giraffe conservation groups don't get as big of a budget as groups protecting elephants and rhinos. He's hopeful, with enough early action, the giraffe population will be able to rebound.

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