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World nations call for giraffes to be named an endangered species as numbers in the wild decrease

Jamey Keaten, August 25, 2019 7:43PM AP

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Giraffes in the wild in Kruger Park in South Africa. Picture: iStock media_cameraGiraffes in the wild in Kruger Park in South Africa. Picture: iStock


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World nations have strongly backed a plan to protect giraffes as an endangered* species for the first time, drawing praise from conservationists*.

The move, approved at the World Wildlife Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, would control and monitor world trade in giraffe parts, including hides, bone carvings and meat, while stopping short of a full ban.

“So many people are so familiar with giraffes that they think they’re abundant*,” said Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy* for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

And in Southern Africa, they may be doing OK, but giraffes are critically endangered.”

media_cameraGiraffes and zebras gather under the shade of a tree in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. Tanzania is one of few countries that has a stable giraffe populatoin. Picture: AP

Ms Lieberman said giraffes were particularly at risk in parts of West, Central and East Africa.

“The giraffe has experienced over 40 per cent decline* in the past 30 years, said Maina Philip Muruthi of the African Wildlife Foundation. “If that trend continues, it means that we are headed toward extinction*.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society said it was concerned about the many threats to giraffes that have already resulted in a drop in population because of habitat* loss, droughts worsened by climate change and the illegal killings and trade in giraffe body parts.

Not all African countries supported the move.

“We see no reason as to why we should support this decision, because Tanzania has a stable and increasing population of giraffes,” said Maurus Msuha, director of wildlife at the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

“Over 50 per cent of our giraffe population is within the Serengeti ecosystem*, which is well protected. Why should we then go for this?”

media_cameraGiraffes in captivity at Australia Zoo in Queensland.

The conference was told the population of wild giraffes is actually much smaller than that of wild African elephants.

“We’re talking about a few tens of thousands of giraffes and we’re talking about a few hundreds of thousands of African elephants,” said Tom De Meulenaar, chief of scientific services at the convention.

He said the convention was intended to specifically* address the international trade in giraffes and their parts.

“With fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa, it was a no-brainer to simply regulate* giraffe exports,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Centre for Biological Diversity.

VIDEO: Baby giraffes born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo in 2019

Baby giraffes at Taronga Western Plains in Dubbo!


  • Commonly called: giraffe
  • Scientific name: giraffa camelopardalis
  • Type of animal: mammal
  • Eats: giraffes are herbivores, so they eat plants
  • Height: 4.2m to 5.8m (3 to 4 times the size of a man)
  • Weight: up to 1900kg (same as a large car)
  • Lives to: about 25 years in the wild
  • Way they walk: Unlike most other four-legged mammals like horses, giraffes swing both legs on the same side at almost the same time during their walk, known as ‘pacing’.
  • Having babies: giraffes give birth standing up, so the first thing a baby giraffe knows is a 2-metre fall to the ground. Despite the bumpy start, baby giraffes can stand up within an hour of birth.
  • Tongue: giraffe tongues are huge! About 40-50cm long.


  • endangered: at risk of dying out
  • conservationists: people who act to protect and save the environment and wildlife.
  • abundant: having plenty of something
  • policy: planned action
  • decline: drop
  • extinction: dying out
  • habitat: where something lives
  • ecosystem: large community of living things in a particular area
  • specifically: exactly
  • regulate: control


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  1. How does the plan aim to protect giraffes?
  2. By what percentage have giraffe numbers fallen in 30 years?
  3. Name two things threatening the lives of giraffes.
  4. What is the estimated population of giraffes?
  5. Where are wild giraffes most at risk in the world?


1. Spread the word
According to the Kids News article, it is not widely appreciated just how low giraffe numbers are or how rapidly they are decreasing. Help spread the word by designing a poster that tells others about this issue. Your poster should include:

  • a memorable headline or slogan that conveys the main idea
  • colours and graphics that capture attention
  • a small amount of text providing the most critical information that you think people should know

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Visual Art

2. Extension
Animals are categorised into groups based on their populations and vulnerability to extinction. Perform some research and make a list of the categories. Write a definition for each category and give some examples of animals from each category.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you support the move to protect giraffes? Why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in animals