A new report on a genetic study of giraffes has found that there are several species, not just one as previously thought. This is important, because the 100,000 giraffes remaining in the wild are sufficient for the animals to be a species of least concern to IUCN. “Least concern” means the species population is large enough not to be threatened or near-threatened. But, with four species and two subspecies, some varieties of giraffes may be considered in some danger, which would mean more resources become available for protecting them. The report took five years, says the Guardian, and is based on genetic research conducted in Germany.
The report identifies four giraffe species: the Northern giraffe, the Masai giraffe, the Reticulated giraffe, and the Southern giraffe. The Northern giraffe has two subspecies, the Kardofan and West African; the Southern giraffe also has two subspecies, the Angolan and the South African. The species differentiation in the research is based on genetics analysis, but the visual differences observable in the field are differences in the patterns of spots on the skin.
According to the Guardian’s story on the report, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) will have its giraffe group study the report and recommend actions, if appropriate. The IUCN maintains the “Red List” that lists species in several categories of endangerment, from least concern to critically endangered. The listings are used by NGO’s and governments which have signed on to important international conservation agreements. The IUCN is one of the more effective international organizations, one that we Americans need to know more about and give our support to. According to the IUCN website, the organization has to date assessed about 80,000 species, with a goal of 120,000 by 2020.
Giraffes are declining over much of their range.
Here’s a link to the Guardian’s report (it is also in other media, but the Guardian’s story strikes me as the best): Guardian coverage of report.
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