Giraffe foundation’s worst fears confirmed, two Sudan subspecies now critically endangered
The conflict in Sudan has taken its toll on the country’s wildlife with two giraffe subspecies listed as critically endangered. The conservation status of these animals has not been assessed before.
Releasing its 2018 Red List of Threatened Species on Wednesday the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said while the giraffe is not generally regarded as threatened, two subspecies are critically endangered. These are the so-called Kordofan and Nubian giraffes, both natives of central and northern Sudan and adjacent countries.
The Namibian-based Giraffe Conservation Foundation said the “Red List reveals that they are in serious trouble, with some now being considered as ‘Critically Endangered’. Many people first became aware of the declining numbers of the iconic giraffe when they were uplisted to ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List in 2016. Today’s IUCN update comes as a further reminder that some of the currently IUCN-recognised giraffe subspecies are in real trouble.”
For the 2018 Red List, the conservation status of seven of the nine giraffe subspecies has been assessed. For five, this was the first-ever scientific assessment.
“For many, it comes as a shock that two of the giraffe subspecies are now listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ (Kordofan and Nubian giraffe) and one as ‘Endangered’ (Reticulated giraffe), while others range from ‘Vulnerable’ (Thornicroft’s and West African giraffe) to ‘Near Threatened’ (Rothschild’s giraffe). Only Angolan giraffe – with their stronghold in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe – seem to be out of trouble and are listed as ‘Least Concern’. The South African and Masai giraffe are yet to be assessed. While South African giraffe appear to be doing well, Masai giraffe have plummeted and will most likely be placed within one of the threatened categories of the IUCN Red List,” stated the giraffe foundation.
The updated giraffe assessments were undertaken by the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the Giraffe & Okapi Specialist Group, which is hosted by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, and the Zoological Society of London.
“While giraffe populations in southern Africa are doing just fine, the world’s tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa,” said Dr Julian Fennessy, the Director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
In spite of this, there is also positive news in this latest IUCN announcement. Two subspecies that were previously considered ‘Endangered’ (West African and Rothschild’s giraffe) have since improved their conservation status. Concerted efforts by African governments and conservation organisations, under the guidance and support of the giraffe foundation, have resulted in increasing numbers of both subspecies, and as a result they have been downlisted to ‘Vulnerable’ and ‘Near Threatened’, respectively.
While the IUCN still recognises the giraffe as one species with nine subspecies, detailed collaborative genetic-based research carried out by the giraffe foundation and its partners, and Senckenberg BiK, indicates that there are four distinct species of giraffe – elevating some of the newly assessed subspecies to specific level.
“While this might appear an academic exercise, the conservation implications are immense and they need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. The Northern giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis (which includes the ‘Critically Endangered’ Kordofan and Nubian giraffe, and the ‘Vulnerable’ West African giraffe) and Reticulated giraffe, Giraffa reticulata, can be considered some of the most threatened large mammals in the wild with less than 5200 and 15785 individuals remaining in the wild, respectively,” said Dr Fennesy.
Caption: Angolan giraffe that got lost slightly, captured by renowned desert lion researcher and protector, Dr Philip Stander near Okongwe in Namibia’s north-western Kunene Region. Angolan is just the popular name for the giraffe subspecies found in southern Angola, Namibia, northern Botswana and Western Zambia, west of the Zambezi river. This is one giraffe subspecies indicated as “Least Concern” in a giraffe conservation assessment released this week. (Photograph by Dr Philip Stander, Desert Lion Conservation)