Giraffe populations have plummeted so drastically in the past 30 years, they are now considered vulnerable to extinction. In 1985, 151,702 to 163,452 of the magnificent creatures graced the earth, but in 2015 those numbers dropped to just 97,562, a 36 to 40 percent decline, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group has called on governments assembling in Cancun, Mexico at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference to take action now before we lose giraffes forever.

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IUCN updated the status of giraffes on their red list, an authoritative catalog of animals from Least Concern to Vulnerable. Illegal hunting, civil wars, and habitat loss due to deforestation and farming have all played a part in their altered status.

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If you were unaware giraffe populations were plunging, you’re not alone – IUCN’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group Co-Chair Julian Fennessy told The Guardian giraffes are in the process of a “silent extinction,” and many conservationists didn’t even know about giraffes’ plight.

ICUN Director-General Inger Andersen said there are over 85,000 species on the red list, with over 24,000 at risk of extinction, but some species are not on the list because they haven’t yet been studied. Andersen fears before they can even be described, they too will be facing extinction.

She said, “This red list update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought. Governments gathered at the UN biodiversity summit have the immense responsibility to step up their efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity – not just for its own sake but for human imperatives such as food security and sustainable development.”

+ International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia Commons and Daniel Ramirez on Flickr