Poachers are After Giraffe Tails

August 11, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Kordofan giraffe
Photo credit: Mathae/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

It’s not just elephants and rhinos being hunted.

Nine subspecies of giraffe roam the African continent, and some populations are on precarious grounds. Though not considered endangered as a whole, the total giraffe population has shrunk from around 140,000 in the 1990s to fewer than 80,000, according to recent estimates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Kordofan giraffe is a rare subspecies — the only one that persists in Central Africa. Of the estimated 3,000 members of this subspecies that are thought to remain, only around 40 individuals live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and all are restricted to the 5,000-square-kilometer Garamba National Park.

SEE ALSO: Why the Long Neck? Giraffe Genome Offers Some Clues

According to the online magazine TakePart, poachers have targeted these giraffes for decades. Some have been killed for their meat, but National Geographic now reports that the Congolese usually kill Kordofan giraffes for their tails, which carry traditional significance.

Leon Lamprecht, joint operations director for African Parks, tells National Geographic that men in some communities “use the tail as a dowry to the bride’s father if they want to ask for the hand of a bride.”

A documentary filmmaker recently discovered three giraffe carcasses in Garamba after hearing gunshots. Their massive bodies were rotting away in the sun, and only the ends of their tails had been removed.

If any more Kordofan giraffes are killed in the park, their tiny population could risk local extinction.

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