Giraffe Population Numbers Are on the Rise

Conservationists are hopeful for the continued growth of the species.

giraffe and calf
Alberto Cassani / Getty Images

There’s some good news for giraffes.

The latest research shows that population numbers are increasing for all species of giraffes over the past few years. The overall number is still small, but conservationists are optimistic for the species.

The latest estimate, based on numbers collected from all over Africa, is just more than 117,000 animals, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. That’s an increase of nearly 20% since 2015.

The foundation is a nonprofit that concentrates on the conservation and management of giraffes in the wild throughout Africa

“We are seeing a slow turning of the tide. Giraffe have lost almost 90% of their habitat in the last 300 years and their numbers have dropped by about 30% in three decades, but we are now reporting an increase of almost 20% in the last 5-6 years,” Stephanie Fennessy, director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, tells Treehugger.

With 117,173 giraffes remaining in Africa today, that’s just one giraffe for every three or four African elephants, Fennessy points out.

“So numbers are not huge, but we are seeing positive trends for all four species of giraffe,” she says. “This is due to strong conservation partnerships, more awareness for giraffe, concerted efforts of African government to protect them better (and count them better) and we believe that the Giraffe Conservation Foundation has significantly contributed to this positive development.” 

Optimism and Conservation Efforts

In 2016, giraffes as a single species were categorized as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Primary threats include habitat loss, civil unrest, poaching, and ecological changes.

For the new study, researchers conducted a thorough review of current giraffe numbers throughout all known populations and evaluated these population trends in the four species of giraffe classifications. The results were published in the journal Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences.

There are four defined species of giraffe with several subspecies. According to the recent demographic research, three of the species’ population increased from 2015 to 2020. Only the Southern giraffe decreased:

  • Northern giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis): 5,919 (increased by 24%) 
  • Masai giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi): 45,402 (increased by 44%)
  • Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata): 15,985 (increased by 85%)
  • Southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa): 48,016 (decreased by 7%)

Conservations are optimistic that the numbers will continue to rise.

“We are hopeful—and would not do this work if we did not believe that the Giraffe Conservation Foundation will continue to make a difference,” Fennessy says. “However, the main threats to giraffe are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and human population growth. These threats continue, so the positive trend can only continue if dedicated conservation actions continue.”

Having the most up-to-date population information can help guide research and conservation efforts.

“Conservation actions such as translocations into areas where giraffe have gone locally extinct are an important conservation measure, solid surveys to determine numbers, anti-poaching in areas where giraffe are under stress are important measures,” Fennessy says.

“Awareness of the plight of giraffe is an important part of this as all conservation actions require funding.” 

View Article Sources
  1. Brown, Michael B., et al. "Conservation Status of Giraffe: Evaluating Contemporary Distribution and Abundance with Evolving Taxonomic Perspectives." Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, 2021, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-821139-7.00139-2.

  2. Stephanie Fennessy, director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation

  3. Muller, Z., et al. "Giraffe." The IUCN Red List of Threatened, 2018, e.T9194A136266699. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T9194A136266699