A fact widely unknown: giraffe populations in Africa have declined 40 percent since 1985. But it is a silent extinction no longer.
Researchers in the film collar a wild giraffe for observation
Last of the Longnecks — a documentary by Iniosante Studios — is the first feature film to bring light to the threats affecting giraffe conservation, and the revelations of the researchers featured in the new movie have instigated the reclassification of giraffes from “Least Concern” to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List – an index on the likelihood of extinction. Suffering a 40% decline in less than 30 years, all nine subspecies of giraffes are now officially in trouble.
The authority on animal conservation designation — the IUCN— announced today that Giraffa camelopardalis is threatened with extinction. Over the past three years, Iniosante Studios made documenting the factors leading to this decline of giraffes its mission; to bring global awareness to this issue. The culmination of their work is the newly completed documentary, Last of the Longnecks. “We’ve been working alongside the researchers in our film for the past three years to sound the alarm,” said Ashley Scott Davison, the film’s Director, “Until recently, few people were even aware of the situation facing giraffes. This reclassification by the IUCN is pivotal to get the public to take action for our planet’s tallest animal.” The recently finished film is represented by Cargo Film & Releasing. A broadcaster has yet to be named.
“The IUCN is one of the primary sources zoos use when determining which species to support with conservation programs and dollars. This status change for giraffes will help them receive the increased attention and protection they so badly need,” added Sheri Horiszny, Deputy Director of Living Collections at Oregon Zoo, & Giraffe Species Survival Plan Coordinator for AZA.
The film spans three continents and seven countries showcasing giraffes in the wild as well as in captivity. Oakland Zoo was featured based on their long-standing commitment to understanding giraffes and supporting conservation efforts through the Reticulated Giraffe Program in Kenya. “The increasing rate of decline in Africa’s giraffe populations is of great concern to Oakland Zoo,” said Dr. Joel Parrot, President & CEO at Oakland Zoo, “Getting the word out through our conservation partner, the Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya, and through the ground-breaking documentary, Last of the Longnecks, will hopefully inspire people to act now and save this species from eventual extinction.”
“This tragedy has unfolded during my lifetime,” says Dr Fred Bercovitch of the University of Kyoto — one of several scientists featured in the film and one of the leading authors of the IUCN Red List Assessment Report — “The only silver lining is the recognition that giraffes as an endangered species might put the brakes on the decline before it’s too late.”
Dr Francois Deacon, a pioneer in the use of GPS technology to study giraffes and their natural habitat, had this to say, “We can forget about saving giraffes from extinction if we can not even save the habitat they roam. This is a sad time for giraffes in Africa if people continue to sit on the sidelines; we are quickly losing grip on the last few natural populations”. Francois and his team of researchers collared the first wild giraffe, and have since tracked more than 30. He is a professor at the University of the Free State in his native South Africa.
Globally, the scientists featured in Last of the Longnecks are recognized as the leading authorities on giraffe research & conservation. To obtain accurate figures for the IUCN, more than a dozen researchers combed the savannas in trucks, wandered trails on foot, flown in aircraft, and studied remote cameras. Sadly, the concerns were justified. The number of giraffes has plummeted from 163,000 to fewer than 98,000 — with numbers of some giraffes, such as the reticulated giraffe, declining by nearly 80%.
“Being recognized as vulnerable to extinction was paramount. But this reclassification isn’t the final chapter in the story to protect giraffes. If we don’t change something, and soon, we may lose many of Africa’s giraffes from our planet forever,” said Ashley Scott Davison.