Giraffes in Danger of Becoming Extinct in the Wild: Study

A global authority on endangered species says the giraffe could become extinct.

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.

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

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.