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World’s Tallest Mammal Disappearing From Africa at Alarming Rate

Efforts to draw attention to the plight of giraffes gain urgency.

Nubian giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Nubian giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Source: Giraffe Conservation Foundation

From my safari Jeep in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, binoculars aren’t needed to spot the long, elegant neck of a giraffe through the treetops in the distant bush. The world’s tallest mammal—towering between 14 and 19 feet—is impossible to miss, yet somehow it has quietly moved toward extinction without much notice. 

About 117,000 giraffes remain in Africa, a drop of nearly 40% from 35 years ago, according to the latest estimates from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, a Namibia-based nonprofit dedicated to saving giraffes in the wild. That’s one living giraffe for every three to four elephants. They’ve disappeared completely from seven African countries, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature to sound an alarm and classify them as “vulnerable” in December 2016.