By RYAN GORMAN
African giraffes are in danger of becoming extinct.
Hunting and poaching have decimated the continent's giraffe population by about 40 percent, according to one estimate. There are now only about 80,000 of the animals currently in the wild.
As recently as 15 years ago, there were roughly 140,000 giraffes in Africa, according to a Giraffe Conservation Foundation study.
"People love giraffes, but they're being taken for granted," Dr Julian Fennessy, the world's only full-time giraffe conservationist, told the Times of London.
The world's tallest animal, giraffes are spread among 21 separate countries, according to the group. They have nine subspecies, two of which are now classified as endangered.
The subspecies are categorized based on genetic data, geography, coat patterns and morphology, according to the non-profit.
Fewer than 300 "West African giraffes" remain in Niger, Hennessy told ABC News, and only 700 "Rothschild's giraffes" are left in Uganda and Kenya.
"Poaching has big impact on certain areas, especially in East and Central Africa," Hennessy told ABC.
The poachers are hauling in record numbers of giraffes because many believe the long-necked animal's meat and/or bone marrow is an HIV cure.
"It is believed [in Tanzania] that giraffe brains and bone marrow can cure HIV-AIDS victims," wrote researcher Zoe Muller, in a research report cited by ABC.
"Freshly severed heads and giraffe bones can fetch prices of up to $140 per piece," she added. "In rural African communities, bush meat not only forms a large part of the diet but also provides an important source of income."
"Killing a giraffe involves relatively little effort for the amount of meat yielded, as a large quarry can be secured with a single gunshot," Muller continued. Giraffe skin is "thick, durable and suitable for a range of purposes such as making clothing, shoes, bags, belts, hats and covers for drums."
Their hair is also "used to make bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry" as far back as ancient Egypt.
Recent restrictions on hunting giraffes living in wildlife parks have failed to curb poachers who are determined to take down the highly-coveted creatures.
Hennessy told ABC he sees the hunts as a "silent extinction."
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