Image: Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons

Pressure placed on protected areas and grazing grounds is attributing to a massive decline in the giraffe population.

A new report published in Science explains how the especially vulnerable species is taking a major hit. Herders are feeling the pressure of increased grazing restrictions and are taking out their anger on park rangers — as well as wildlife. 

The Nubian and reticulated giraffe species may soon be declared critically endangered by the IUCN, with respective population declines of 97% and 78% in the past thirty years. Giraffes are most directly affected by herders moving their livestock onto their lands, growing infrastructure, and hunters seeking them out for bush meat to feed their families.

In addition, lions are taking a major toll on the population. As zebra and wildebeest numbers decline, lions are forced to feed on other prey, including giraffes.

Image: Harvey Barrison, Wikimedia Commons

The reproductive rates of giraffes are contributing to their bleak outlook. Field data analyzed in the African Journal of Ecology reveals that giraffes give birth to an average five calves in their lifetime and only half of them survive.

This lack of population growth is a staggering realization amongst all of the threats to their continued existence.

Conservationists must work fast to study the reproductive tendencies of females and protect their breeding and calving grounds. The recent surge in wildlife killings and increasing tension in northern Kenya may have lasting results that will be nearly impossible to undo.