Giraffes in Danger of Becoming Extinct in the Wild: Study

PHOTO: A giraffe runs in Amboseli National park, Kenya, Aug. 26, 2016. PlayGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
WATCH Giraffes in Danger of Becoming Extinct in the Wild: Study

The world's tallest land mammal is now in danger of becoming extinct in the wild, a global authority on endangered species announced on Thursday.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature released its updated annual Red List of Threatened Species, which now labels the iconic giraffe as "vulnerable," after its global population was decimated by as much as 40 percent over the past three decades.

"These majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction," said Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group.

PHOTO: A newborn reticulated giraffe is seen for the first time in the savannah habitat at Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, Nov. 21, 2016.Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images
A newborn reticulated giraffe is seen for the first time in the savannah habitat at Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, Nov. 21, 2016.

Overall, giraffe numbers dipped to 97,562 in 2015 from between 151,000 and 163,000 in 1985.

The giraffe, the only mammal whose status changed in this year's list, is under "severe pressure" in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa, the IUCN said.

"Illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing the species towards extinction," the group warned

PHOTO: A baby female Masai giraffe, as yet unnamed, nuzzles its father Phillip during her public debut at the Los Angeles Zoo, Nov. 22, 2016.Nick Ut/AP Photo
A baby female Masai giraffe, as yet unnamed, nuzzles its father Phillip during her public debut at the Los Angeles Zoo, Nov. 22, 2016.

Across the natural world, some 860 plant and animal species have already gone extinct. Another 68 are no longer found in the wild.

The IUCN lists nearly 13,000 species as endangered or critically endangered. Many more species, including giraffes, are labeled as vulnerable, considered to be facing a "high risk of extinction in the wild," the group says.

“Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them,” IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said. “This IUCN Red List update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought."

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