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Giraffes heading for 'silent extinction' as numbers plummet

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Giraffes are heading towards a "silent extinction" with numbers plunging 40% over the last 30 years, conservationists have warned, reported Sky News.

It has been moved up two steps to the "vulnerable" level of the official Red List of Threatened Species.

Experts said the fall is largely down to habitat loss, while other factors include illegal hunting and disease.

There were 97,562 giraffes in 2015, down from between 151,000 and 163,000 in 1985, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The organisation increased the threat level to the giraffe and 34 other species at a meeting in Mexico.

Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the group that put the species on the list, said people moving into areas occupied by giraffes was the main reason for their decline.

The problem is worst in central and eastern Africa, but it is being offset somewhat by increases in southern Africa, Mr Fennessy said.

Giraffes have now disappeared from Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal, said Noelle Kumpel from the Zoological Society of London - who also advised on increasing the threat level.

"There's a strong tendency to think that familiar species must be okay because they are familiar and we see them in zoos ... This is dangerous," added Duke University conservation biologist Stuart Pimm.

The IUCN said 860 plant and animal species are now extinct as it classed nearly 13,000 as endangered or critically endangered.

The next level is vulnerable, where giraffes are now placed, followed by near threatened and least concerned.

More than 700 newly recognised bird species were also assessed for the Red List, with more than one in 10 found to be at risk of dying out.

IUCN director general Inger Anderson said: "Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them.

"This IUCN Red List update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought."

Read more at skynews.com.

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