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Giraffe are still in trouble, but …

… there is hope as giraffe numbers throughout Africa are showing a positive upwards trend!

2021 was another year that was largely defined by the Covid-19 pandemic and a media landscape that bombarded us with negative stories. However, we at GCF are excited to end the year on a positive note: Our latest estimate, based on numbers collated from all over Africa, stands at just over 117,000 giraffe in the wild – an increase of almost 20% since 2015.

While this is still a precariously low number – particularly when compared to African elephant: there is only 1 giraffe for every 3-4 elephant in Africa – we can see encouraging signs!

The iconic giraffe and their habitat remain under a high level of conservation threat. In 2016, giraffe as a single species were categorised as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, following the analysis of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Giraffe & Okapi Specialist Group (GOSG) with significant input from GCF – with many staff also members of the IUCN SSC GOSG.

“In some giraffe populations we single-handedly doubled the number of giraffe through improved survey methods – or to put it simply: by counting them better!” comments Dr Julian Fennessy, Co-Founder and Director of GCF.

To better understand the current situation and how giraffe numbers have evolved since the IUCN assessment was completed in 2015, GCF led a comprehensive review of giraffe current abundance and evaluated these trends. With the new taxonomic classification of four distinct species of giraffe, we could better define the conservation status of each species and understand the diverse challenges they face throughout Africa.

“Our understanding of the conservation status of giraffe is constantly evolving with new incoming data on diversity, distribution, and abundance. This study combines the dedicated efforts of teams throughout Africa to incorporate the most recent numbers into our understanding of giraffe abundance at the continental scale,“ says Dr Michael Brown, Conservation Scientist with GCF and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The good news is that overall giraffe numbers are on the rise and that the conservation efforts GCF and many of our partners are undertaking appear to be showing success. Estimated at a total of 97,562 individuals in 2015, our 2020 review shows a 20% growth to 117,173 giraffe in the wild today. Most importantly, these numbers are increasing across all recently defined four species of giraffe. This is the first time that such trends have been reported in recent history.

For more details on the Status of Giraffe 2020, you can read a short summary in our GCF Annual Report 2020/21 or download the full peer-reviewed paper from our Giraffe Resource Centre.