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Giraffes: edge of extinction, how they landed on the IUCN’s Red List

(WBNG) — The giraffe population is rapidly declining. Experts blame climate change and human encroachment, but zookeepers are taking action to keep giraffes from the edge of extinction.

“We are in the sixth mass extinction on earth and we will possibly see half of the world’s animal species go extinct in the next 100 years,” said Jordan Patch, owner of Animal Adventure Park.

Patch said he expects giraffes to end up on the endangered species list soon. The International Union for Conservation, which tracks animal populations, lists giraffes as a threatened species. The IUCN alarmed the world with its statistics showing a drop in the number of giraffes by 40 percent over 30 years. The IUCN found there were more than 97,000 giraffes in 2015 compared to approximately 157,000 in 1985.

This drastic drop has grabbed the attention of zookeepers around the world.

“Scientists say they are going through a silent extinction,” said Christina O’Donnell, a zookeeper in Iowa.

If the population continues to drop they may cease to exist in the wild.

“It’s heartbreaking to think the zoo may be the only way to see animals,” O’Donnell said.

Zoos around the world and Animal Adventure Park in our backyard are working to save giraffes from the edge of extinction.

“Animal parks and zoos are like living arcs. We have the genetic populations that will hopefully someday repopulate the wild territories,” Patch said.

In the Southern Tier we have April, growing her own brood. Patch is working with a captive management program to help preserve the population, hoping to return more giraffes to the wild someday.

“Does that mean baby giraffe Azizi will go back to Africa? No, but he’s carrying the genetic seeds that could potentially be for the offspring that do get to return,” Patch said.

Patch said the growing agriculture in Africa has humans pushing giraffes out, but they need to stay in the wild.

“Every animal in an ecosystem plays its part. Giraffes being a browser that’s 18 feet in the air, they’re maintaining and sustaining the leaf growth up there, doing their job while the ground dwellers do their’s,” Patch said.

If something isn’t done, giraffes in the wild may become a distant memory, forced to the edge of extinction.


Grace Gagnon

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