Giraffes join the list of species facing threat of extinction

Wednesday December 5 2018

GIRAFFE

Maasai Giraffes eat leaves in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, on November 21, 2018. In December 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had classified giraffes as “vulnerable" in the Red List. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP 

By KENNEDY SENELWA
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Kordofan and Nubian giraffes are facing at extinction even as the mountain gorilla and the fin whale report conservation success.

According to an updated list from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the fin whale has improved in status from endangered to vulnerable following bans on whaling while the Virunga mountain gorilla has moved from critically endangered to the lesser endangered category.

The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species includes 96,951 species of which 26,840 are threatened with extinction.

The list is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.

It shows, for instance, that overfishing is causing a decline in certain fish species in parts of the developing world, with 13 per cent of the world’s grouper species (the common name given to fish in one of two large genera) and nine per cent of Lake Malawi fish now threatened with extinction.

IUCN director general Inger Andersen credits governments, business and civil society for the gorilla and fin whale successes.

“The latest update also underlines how threats to biodiversity undermines some of society’s most important goals including food security. We urgently need to see effective conservation action strengthened and sustained,” Ms Andersen said.

The Zoological Society of London chief executive Dominic Jermey shared similar sentiments: “Recovery of the mountain gorilla and fin whale demonstrates that with sustained longterm conservation, we cannot only prevent extinction but recover populations,” he said.

The mountain gorilla has improved in status due to cross-border conservation efforts between DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

The 2008 mountain gorilla population was estimated at around 680 individuals, but 2018 estimates show that it has increased to over 1,000 individuals, the highest figure ever recorded.

Limiting tourist numbers

“While it is fantastic news, this subspecies is still endangered and conservation must continue,” said Dr Liz Williamson of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group.

She said implementing the IUCN guidelines for great ape tourism and disease prevention that recommends limiting numbers of tourists and preventing close contact with humans is critical to ensuring a future for the mountain gorilla.

Hunting, civil unrest and loss of gorilla habitat to farmland in the forested mountains of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC led to the Dian Fossey Gorrila Fund warning that the animals may some day appear only in fables.

The Nubian and Kordofan giraffe species have not fared as well. The IUCN has placed the two on the critically endangered Red List of Threatened Species.

They number less than 4,650 and are close to being extinct in the wild. Giraffe numbers have declined from 163,000 three decades ago to about 97,000.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation said that the animal is under pressure from habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and ecological changes.

It is losing its beloved acacia trees, which are its main source of food as the human population grows, settlements expanding, agricultural activities and road construction grow apace.

Kordofan giraffes are found in some of Africa’s more hostile areas like southern Chad, Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, northern eastern DRC and South Sudan.

Nubian giraffes are found in central Kenya, northern Uganda, western Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan.

Demand from China

Giraffe are killed for their meat, hide and tails. Desire for good luck bracelets, fly whisks, thread for sewing or stringing beads leads people to kill the giraffe for its tail.

Overexploitation threatens the Vene tree, an important source of timber. The timber from Vene native to West and Central Africa, is used for furniture, flooring, household utensils and construction.

Between 2009 and 2014, there was 15-fold increase in the trade of timber from the Vene, a type of African Rosewood, to meet high demand from China.

“Conservation successes such as the mountain gorilla demonstrate that science-based, targeted conservation works. This is why we continue to support the IUCN Red List,” said Toyota Motor Corporation environmental affairs division general manager Keiji Nemoto.

The five-year partnership between the IUCN and Toyota has striven since May 2016 to increase knowledge on extinction risk of over 28,000 species including many that are food sources for a portion of the global population.