Giraffe's, nature's gentle giants, are dying at a "devastating" rate and could face extinction if current conditions continue, according to a report released Thursday on worldwide animal populations.
The report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature includes the animal for the first time ever to its "Red List" of species vulnerable to extinction.
Global giraffe populations have seen a dramatic decline of 36 to 40 percent over the past three decades, the report found, leaving fewer than 100,000 in their native habitat of southern and eastern Africa.
The report cites illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest as factors pushing the species toward extinction.
"These majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction," according to a statement from Julian Fennessy, co-chairman of the organization's giraffe sprecialist group. He added, "the world's tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa. As one of the world's most iconic animals, it is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late.”
The conservation world is already moving to save the giraffe. The IUCN passed a resolution at the World Conservation Congress in September calling for action to reverse the decline of the giraffe population.
More than 80 species of birds were also added to the Red List, several of which are already considered extinct, according to the report.
“Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “This IUCN Red List update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought."