Giraffes may be of six distinct species, not one

December 22nd, 2007 - 1:57 pm ICT by admin  

London, Dec 22 (ANI): Genetic evidence, supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, has indicated that there might be at least six giraffe species in existence in Africa, instead of only one.

The giraffe genetic study was conducted by an interdisciplinary team from the University of California, Los Angeles; Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo; and the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya.

Recognized as the worlds tallest animal, some of the newly identified species of the giraffe are highly threatened with extinction.

Some of these giraffe populations number only a few hundred individuals and need immediate protection, said WCS Associate David Brown, the lead author of the study and a geneticist at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). Lumping all giraffes into one species obscures the reality that some kinds of giraffe are on the very brink, he added.

According to a report in BMC Biology, classifying current subspecies as fully-fledged species will force a re-examination of conservation initiatives in order to deal with the needs of each separate species of giraffe.

Giraffes are often overlooked in conservation initiatives, but they are as symbolic of African wilderness as any other species, said Dr. James Deutsch, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Societys Africa Program. Studies such as this one will help us inform conservation plans to save the most threatened giraffe populations, he added.

The studys authors also emphasize that all giraffes are under threat, with an estimated 30 percent drop in population numbers over the past decade.

The total number of giraffes across Africa is estimated to be under 100,000 individuals, and the numbers are currently under review as part of a continent-wide database project, Dr. Julian Fennessey of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), told BMC Biology.

On the bright side, the discovery of large antelope herds in Southern Sudanhistorically the very center of giraffe evolutionraises hopes that large numbers of giraffe may also exist there.

The most threatened potential species include the reticulated giraffe, the Nigerian giraffe, and the Rothschild giraffe. (ANI)

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