The giraffe population in Africa has dropped about 40 percent in just 15 years, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
The organization's director, Dr. Julian Fennessy, told ABC News: "It's a silent extinction," noting that giraffe numbers have fallen to 80,000 from 140,000.
In what is a familiar refrain for many species, the giraffe population has plummeted due to habitat loss, excessive hunting and poaching.
Unfortunately for giraffes, their skin can be used to make several clothing items, and countries such as Tanzania have come to believe eating parts of the animal can cure HIV-AIDS. Hunters, for their part, can earn money from the animal's meat without a great deal of effort.
And while animals such as elephants and rhinos garner a large share of conservation attention, why does it seem like a "silent" extinction? Experts speculate that they're such a presence in our lives that it's easy to think the species is as abundant as can be.
"Giraffes are everywhere. Look at kids' books, which are full of giraffes. They're always in zoo collections. They're easily visible, so you don't think we have to worry about them," David O'Connor, research coordinator with the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, told Scientific American.
Groups such as Giraffe Conservation Foundation hope that by sounding the alarm about the plight of the gentle giants, African nations might take a harder look at stricter conservation measures. Other efforts involve ensuring that the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered species is as up to date and accurate as possible about giraffes and their nine subspecies -- the better to raise awareness that the creatures could one day be lost to history.
via Scientific American, ABC News