The Somali giraffe is the second least species of animal, found mainly in northern Kenya. The researchers estimate there are just under 16,000 of these species, nearly double the 2015 estimate, but that increase is largely due to better data, rather than a huge increase, Brown said.
The number of Maasai giraffes, which are mainly found in Tanzania and the southern part of Kenya, is estimated to be about 45,000 animals. This is a 44 percent increase compared to seven years ago. The most common species, the southern giraffe, can be found in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, among others. It is estimated that there are now 48,000, roughly the same number as in 2015.
There are still areas for which good data is not available, such as South Sudan. The fear is that the conflict in the area has led to an increase in the number of poachers. It is also unclear how many animals live in Ethiopia and Somalia. In addition, there are regions where giraffe populations are declining, such as the northern giraffes in the Central African Republic or the southern giraffes in Zimbabwe.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) species status has not completed its assessment of the new genetic data for the giraffe and still considers the animals as one species, listed as endangered, with nine subspecies.
Two subspecies of the northern giraffe are critically endangered, according to the IUCN, and two other species, the Masai and Somali giraffe, are endangered. (Read also: The Maasai giraffe has been declared an endangered species.)
Illegal hunting of animals for their meat, skin, bones and tail remains a major problem in some areas. But the researcher Jared Stabach of the Smithsonian Institution of Conservation Biology says he is particularly concerned about unfriendly developments in animal habitats, such as oil drilling and road construction. “It keeps me up at night,” he says.
An example is the stretch Searching for oil and gas around Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, threatening to fragment and degrade the habitat of a large population of the critically endangered northern giraffe.
But in areas where governments, citizens, scientists and animal advocates have worked together to protect the world’s tallest animal, there is hope for populations to thrive.
“If the conditions are right for giraffes, they can recover in an amazing way,” Brown said. “They just need to get this chance.”
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