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Giraffes (Giraffa spp.) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Population estimates

  • About 97,500 giraffes (all species and age classes; based on 2015 and 2016 data) (Muller et al. 2018) [includes both current and provisional estimates for G. c. angolensis; subject to revision]
    • About 68,000 mature individuals
  • Declines of >40% across the species' range since 1990s (Strauss et al. 2015)
    • Due to lower reproductive rates for mature females and higher adult mortality (hunting/poaching)
    • Population trends across the continent are not uniform (Bercovitch and Deacon 2015)
  • Approximate number of individuals of each giraffe species (based on Muller et al. 2018 Supplemental Info)
    • G. giraffa - southern giraffe
      • 34,500
        • This estimate combines IUCN estimates for G. c. angolensis and G. c. giraffa
          • The Giraffe Conservation Foundation estimates the total number of G. c. giraffa to be higher (31,500) than IUCN (21,387); future estimates may be revised to incorporate new data (Jenna Stacy-Dawes, personal communication, 2018)
    • G. tippelskirchi - Masai giraffe
      • 32,200
    • G. reticulata - reticulated giraffe
      • 8,700
    • G. camelopardalis - northern giraffe
      • 4,700
  • Also see Giraffe Conservation Status section of Giraffe Conservation Foundation website
    • Includes country-specific profiles

 

Previous population estimates

 

  • 1985 (Muller et al. 2018)
    • Total population
      • 151,000-163,000 individuals (all ages)
    • Mature individuals
      • 106,000-114,000 individuals

Conservation

IUCN Status
(Note: Muller et al. 2018 recognize one giraffe species and 9 subspecies; subject to revision after consideration of genetic data)

  • Vulnerable (2016 assessment) (Muller et al. 2018)
  • Subspecies statuses​​
    • Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa
      • Population trend: increasing
    • Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi
      • Near Threatened (2018 assessment) (Fennessy et al. 2018)
        • Population trend: increasing
    • Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis
      • Least Concern (2018 assessment) (Marais et al. 2018)
        • Population trend: increasing
    • Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
      • Endangered (2018 assessment) (Muneza et al. 2018)
        • Population trend: decreasing
    • Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum
    • Giraffa camelopardalis peralta
      • Vulnerable (2017 assessment) (Fennessy et al. 2018)
        • Population trend: increasing
    • Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis
    • Giraffa camelopardalis thornicrofti
      • Vulnerable (2018 assessment) (Bercovitch et al. 2018)
        • Population trend: stable
    • Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi
      • Endangered (2018 assessment) (Bolger et al. 2019)
        • Population trend: decreasing

CITES Status

  • Not listed as of (May 2019) (UNEP 2019)
  • Protected in most African countries where they occur.
  • Extinction risk varies among populations.

Key Issues

  • Management of giraffe populations, both inside and outside of protected areas
  • Distribution is still relatively widespread but greatly reduced compared to historical records
  • The species is fragmented across its range, with many populations in decline
  • Although all populations are currently considered as a single species for management, Brown et al. (2007) report that genetic subdivisions exist and suggest that not recognizing this could lead to endangerment or even extinction

San Diego Zoo Global

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Threats to Survival

Threats

  • Poaching: Hunted by humans for meat, bone, skin, organs, horns, and pelts.
    • Adult giraffes make up a high proportion of species (45%) caught in steel-wire snares; suggests targeted hunting. Many adults able to break free of neck ensnarement (Strauss et al. 2015).
    • Poaching under-reported. External, specialized markets may fetch higher prices than local bushmeat markets (Strauss et al. 2015).
    • Developing markets promoting giraffe bone marrow and other body parts as medicinal cures; more research needed (Strauss et al. 2015)
    • Some anti-poaching programs are proving effective (Saraud et al. 2012).
  • Trophy hunting (ecotourism)
  • Malnutrition (Brenneman et al. 2009, except as noted)
    • Changes in food supply: Palatable species not available in high enough abundance (Brenneman et al. 2009; Strauss et al. 2015).
    • Less food available during the dry season (Parker and Bernard 2005); also during drought attributed to El Niño weather cycles.
    • Acacia tannins: Possible effects include toxicity and/or reduced nutritional uptake.
  • Diseases, including those transmitted from domestic livestock (rinderpest). Health effects of parasites not well-understood.
  • Habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss
  • Competition for land and resources by rapidly growing human populations (Suraud et al. 2012; Giraffe Conservation Foundation 2013)
    • Clearing land for agriculture or timber harvesting
    • Direct or perceived competition between giraffe and livestock
    • Damage to crops by giraffe. In Niger, cowpeas and fruits, especially mangos (Leroy et al. 2009).
      • Has led to negative perceptions of giraffes by farmers.
      • Damage prevented with millet straw fences and timely harvesting.
  • Armed conflict, war, and civil unrest in Africa (Fennessy & Brown 2010; Giraffe Conservation Foundation 2013)

Management Action

Management priorities (following The Giraffe Conservation Foundation 2013)

  • Raise international awareness of giraffe conservation
  • Protect giraffe habitat
  • Conduct research on giraffe ecology, conservation, and management
  • Identify evolutionarily significant taxonomic groups, including genetic information; assess extinction risk (Brown et al. 2007; Hassanin et al. 2007)
  • Establish the current status of all giraffe populations and (sub)species
  • Identify key threats to giraffe and approaches to mitigate threats
  • Develop a worldwide network of individuals and organizations committed to protecting giraffe
  • Develop conservation initiatives to work collaboratively with local communities (Leroy et al. 2009)

Factors to consider (Bercovitch and Deacon 2015)

  • Extent of segregation of different giraffe populations
  • Ability to identify suitable habitat for relocation, including diverse enough foliage to meet dietary needs
    • In areas where giraffe introduced, assess impacts of browsing on plant species (Parker and Bernard 2005).
  • Feasibility (risks to animals, cost, etc.) of relocation efforts
  • Ensuring adequate genetic diversity within regional pockets
  • Whether or not to reintroduce giraffe to parts of their former range where they have been extirpated
  • Future roles of ecotourism and regulated hunting practices in funding conservation programs

Note: The status and health of giraffe populations varies, depending on the local situation. Management plans should be tailored to the needs of local and regional populations (Berchovitch and Deacon 2015).

Saving Giraffes From Extinction

Many giraffe populations have not been well studied until recently. Wildlife conservationists call the drastic declines in giraffe numbers "a silent extinction."

Learn how scientific discoveries are helping San Diego Zoo Global to help people and giraffes coexist.

© San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Giraffe Herd

Giraffe herd

Giraffe herd at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Bercovitch and Deacon (2015)
East (1999)
Fennessy & Brown (IUCN) 2010
IUCN SSC GOSG (2016)
Giraffe Conservation Foundation (2013)
Hassanin et al. (2007)
Lacky and LaRue (1997)
Leroy et al. (2009)
Parker and Bernard (2005)
Saraud et al. (2012)

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