A few days ago, World Giraffe Day was celebrated. Unfortunately for giraffes, things are not looking good: Their population has plummeted from a 120,000 to a staggering 80,000 individuals between 1998 and 2012. Two giraffe subspecies are endangered.
How could this happen? The South African reports that giraffes “[are] being threatened by a number of human activities, including poaching, disease, habitat loss, war, and conflict with humans over scarce resources.” Theo Way Nana, conservation management trainee for African Wildlife Foundation, says that “[t]he West African giraffe lives only in Niger, mainly on community lands and farms. This coexistence with humans has led to reduced and degraded habitat for giraffe, as well as incidents of human–giraffe conflict.”
While giraffes are dying out in the wild, others are being born — or killed — in zoos. On World Giraffe Day, the San Diego zoo introduced an unnamed one-week-old baby (already over 6 feet tall!) to the public. But recall that in February of this past year, a Danish zoo killed a healthy giraffe because he was “surplus.” Every year, 20-30 healthy animals are put down at the Copenhagen Zoo.
Zoos are constantly making difficult decisions on which animals to house and exhibit. Consider whether the conservation efforts of zoos are as successful as you believe (or would like to believe) them to be:
“Among the 2,400 animal enclosures licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 212 are under the strict regulatory umbrella of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. The other 2,188 are not. David Hancocks, a former zoo director with 30 years’ experience, estimates that less than 3 percent of the budgets of these 212 accredited zoos go toward conservation efforts. At the same time, they point to the billions of dollars spent every year on hi-tech exhibits and marketing efforts to lure visitors. Many zoos not affiliated with the AZA spend nothing on conservation.” — Critics Question Zoos’ Commitment to Conservation
But back to giraffes. Their population is horrifyingly low because of us. Humans did this and continue to this. So what can we do? One easy thing to do is donate directly to efforts like The Giraffe Conservation Foundation instead of spending money at a zoo (roadside or accredited).
“We cannot, however, forget about Africa’s giraffes, whose populations have plummeted in a very short period of time. If we are not careful, while we are working to save some of Africa’s megafauna, Africa could end up losing one of the most iconic African megafauna—the giraffe—altogether.” — Dr. Julian Fennessy, executive director and conservation scientist of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.