Always There? Don’t Bank On It


I had no idea until this week when the BBC aired Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants  in their Natural World series. But in the twenty years since this photograph was taken in the Maasai Mara the continent’s giraffe population has fallen by 40 %. That’s roughly 36,000 fewer wild giraffes on the planet, out of a total remaining population of 90,000.

I’ll say that again: there are only 90,000 giraffes left in all Africa.  Some populations comprise less than 400 individuals. Seven countries have lost their populations altogether.

In his voice-over, David Attenborough calls it a ‘silent extinction’; it has happened without anyone much noticing. We have been too busy worrying, and quite rightly so, about elephant numbers. But then Africa still has half a million elephants, albeit a fraction of those slaughtered for piano keys, billiard balls, and objets d’art.

One man who has been noticing the giraffe depletion is Australian scientist Dr. Julian Fennessy. From their home in Namibia, he and his wife have been studying the resident Angolan giraffes for twenty years, learning things about giraffes that no one else has bothered so far to discover. It seems that we all have thought that giraffes will always be there. If Fennessy has his way, they will be. But it’s a big call.

In many regions of Africa they have been poached for meat, or their habitats destroyed. There appears to be a further problem. It has long been known that there are several ‘races’ of giraffe across Africa – Maasai, Rothschild, Reticulated amongst others. Now Fennessy is coming to the conclusion that some of these regional variants are actually separate species. He is carrying out genetic sampling across the continent in order to find out. If his theory proves correct, then this knowledge will be crucial when it comes to maintaining viable breeding populations.

To fund operations, he and his wife run the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the only conservation charity devoted exclusively to giraffes.  The BBC film also documents the Fennessy family’s part in the extraordinary effort by the Uganda wildlife authority to translocate 20 giraffe across the Nile in order to establish a new population outside an area earmarked for oil exploration, and one already predated on by poachers. For anyone in the UK, the programme is still on BBC iPlayer.

And why should we worry about loss of giraffes. Well, like elephants, they are the natural world’s gardeners. They help to pollinate trees, so ensuring fruits and seeds for a range of other wildlife. They also spread ready-to-grow seeds in their dung, so propagating tree cover which benefits the planet. And utility aside, just the thought of them makes people happy. Perhaps happy enough to help to support the Giraffe Conservation Foundation? Follow the link to see the kind of work they do.


Post inspired by Paula’s theme at Black & White Sunday: Always there

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell


38 thoughts on “Always There? Don’t Bank On It

  1. We are losing so many species so fast, it make me sick to my stomach. I wish that at least ONE species would be granted a full pardon and the right to live despite human greed and need.

  2. Great post. It was so magical to see giraffe in the wild when I went to Namibia a couple of years ago. Their fluid walking movement is fascinating.

  3. I had no idea that there are so few. I can’t imagine our planet without these gentle creatures. Last year I went to Paignton zoo to see a few weeks old baby, it didn’t make it . Another was born last month and was rejected by its mum, fingers and toes crossed. They have Rothschilds and they do great conservation work there.

  4. It makes me so sad to see the decline of any of these wonderful creatures because of man’s greed usually. Let’s hope we can hang on to these at least. And I love your photo. My first giraffes in the wild were in Namibia and then Zimbabwe. Truly amazing creatures.

  5. Aha. You’ve nailed this theme perfectly, with a sad post. Praise be to you and Attenborough, both of you yet again. I had no idea giraffes were under threat. Your photo is beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Meg. It is sad. Also I seem to have so few giraffe photos. In Kenya you had the impression there were masses of them, which perhaps there were compared to other places. You’d often glimpse them while driving down the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. Always a beautiful sight.

    1. I think Kenya has done a pretty good job of protecting wildlife – apart from elephants that is. We used to go to the giraffe centre in Langata quite often. Nothing like being licked by a giraffe 🙂

      1. I think not enough is being done to protect habitats. Land grabbing by those in power. Poaching of endangered species which there is a feeling is done by those high up.

  6. The most obvious problem on this planet is the one no one wants to talk about, or consider, simply because it’s not politically correct, and that is the simple fact that man has exceeded his limits to growth in every possible way. Something had and has, to give, to make room for this insane, inhumane, unnatural expansion: other lifeforms have to die until enough have died that man’s own place becomes untenable due to lack of symbiosis and the great die-back happens… and it will happen, that is written in stone. It will be a bleak world that will sustain the last remnant of mankind.

    1. I’m a bit more optimistic than that. Humanity could still do a great deal to reclaim the damaged environment and live more sustainably, and especially if more pressure was put on corporations and western governments to stop trashing the planet and fuelling resource wars and spreading arms all over the globe. The restoration of China’s Loess Plateau – a region lived in by 50 million people and once dubbed the most degraded land on earth – shows what may be done. This film on YouTube is well worth a look 🙂

      1. To explain a bit more. First, I was born with the Cassandra curse: cursed to see the future unfold and unable to do anything to prevent it from happening even if I know how mankind can prevent its downfall – but I also know it will not. The Trojan horse is already within the gates of the city and those hiding in it have already gone out and hid throughout the city to open the gates in the night.

        I can understand the “need” to look at the earth picture without the bleak foreground – it’s a human trait to hope for some respite, some good, some positive change, despite all evidence to the contrary. From my perspective, any “successful” reclamation, or advance in non-polluting technologies, are permitted in order to diffuse the fear of total collapse which could lead to global revolution seriously upsetting to the timetable of the controlling elites. Mainly though, any limited success is simply a form of propaganda and misdirection. “If it can be done on the Loess Plateau, it can be done in the coal states, etc.” These are controlled experiments which “They” can crash at any time: start a war, bomb the place. Or if it’s economically advantageous down the road “They” can take them over and use them to fuel even more destruction and despair. That is the human pattern.

        How long before “you” have to pay for every drop of water, even rain water and “you” buy into their propaganda of necessity? How long before the very air is arbitrarily rationed; before “wind usage” is charged for in wind-powered electrical generation? How long before “They” institute a global tax on solar usage? We’re practically there already with all the fees and surcharges purporting to environmental “conservation” and those who can afford it, buy into it. Those who cannot, live in the streets and the motto for their growing numbers (including refugees) is “Eat s**t and die.” This is where it is going and those little spurts of protests seen to-date are jets of steam being let out, not change.

        The only positive trend seen in the last several years of mounting troubles is Brexit. That gives the world hope, if the world can grasp the significance of it. Sadly, even the people of England can’t see the massive blow they’ve dealt globalism and are fearful of their daring, like the abused wife who finally struck back and knocked out the abuser. She won’t finish him off, but try to help him instead. And he’ll come back with a vengeance and kill her.

        As for ordinary people putting pressure on their elites to stop the devastation, it’s what should happen but is not going to. First, because there are still too many who enjoy the perks: they like their technological comforts and toys and don’t care how they get them. Too many are economically, politically and religiously cornered and cannot mount any effective movement against the elites because they need to believe in them, despite the obvious corruption.

        Corruption (spiritual and mental, but also physical), the number one disease of mankind, feeds on corruption. The (primarily American) corruption of the 1920’s had spread world-wide by the end of the 20th C. That was accomplished through the constant promotion of wars and the subsequent “need” to send in peace-keeping forces: men used to export the American Way. Corruption is a cancer that will stop only when the body it feeds on dies.

  7. I, along with so many other bloggers, had no idea these strange and beautiful animals are so threatened, they seem to miss out on the wild life documentaries. Maybe because they are so gentle and unassuming they do not present the drama of lions, tigers and elephants.

  8. Everytime I mention to people that some Giraffes are endangered they look at me like i’m nuts. It really saddens me that people can’t open their minds to what is happening on the planet – 2/3rds of our wildlife is likely to have disappeared by 2020. That’s so far beyond tragic, iit’s unacceptable and I can’t believe more people don’t wan’t to do more to stop it!

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