Giraffes are considered as much on their way out as they are overpopulated. It really just depends who you ask and where. While the animal’s deemed a deer-like nuisance in some areas of Africa, giraffes are being taken to the cleaners by "a silent extinction," according to the Director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Dr. Julian Fennessy.
"They produce a hell of a lot of meat," says Fennessy, who holds the very rare title of world's only full-time giraffe conservationist. "They are relatively easy to hunt, so you can see the attraction, but unless something is done to stop this and quickly we will have a bad situation on our hands."
That bad situation is in progress. Africa’s giraffe population has plummeted roughly 40 percent in the last 15 years, dropping from 140,000 to 80,000. The reason is no surprise, as it seems to be the cause of species extinction: excessive hunting/poaching and loss of its natural habitat.
Described as "intensely flavored lean meat" by Montana-based Giraffe-meat company Giraffine, the dinosaur-necked creature is sometimes thought of as Africa’s venison and has been known to taste like a more tender version of horse meat. A single giraffe can produce up to 660 pounds of meat, though it’s considered illegal in many African nations.
Sadly, there’s exactly not a grand chance things are going to suddenly turn around, as Dr. Noelle Kumpel of the Zoological Society of London points out, citing poverty and lower-class displacement.
"This is really about the issue of food security,” she says. “When people are hungry, they will eat whatever is available."
Kumpel also points out that giraffes prominence in zoos has misled western culture, so a tremendous lack of conservation effort has been made.
"Giraffe face the same problems that other wildlife species do,” says Fennessy. “It's just that they've been overlooked."