Bowing to the crowds

Pamushana | July 2019

I could hardly believe my luck when these two black rhinos appeared out of the gloom to drink, but I had to use all my powers to emerge from my awe-struck reverie and photograph the scene when a magnificent bull giraffe also wandered into shot, and gracefully bowed to the water while flanked by the rhinos.

I would have thought that all well-educated people, the world over, know about the threat of extinction to all rhinos due to poaching and the trade of their horns, but I was shocked to find on a recent trip overseas that many people are blissfully unaware of the peril these animals face. To recap, black rhinos are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED – that is a tiny side-step away from EXTINCT IN THE WILD and then truly EXTINCT forever.

What is less well-known is that the world’s tallest animal is experiencing a silent slide towards extinction. Giraffes as a species are listed as VULNERABLE and two subspecies have been listed as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED by the IUCN. They are the Kordofan and Nubian giraffes, with respectively 2 000 and 2 645 individuals remaining in East, Central and West Africa.

Giraffe numbers have plummeted by a staggering 40% in the last three decades, and it is thought that less than 100 000 remain today. Habitat loss through expanding agriculture, human-wildlife conflict, civil unrest, and poaching for their meat, pelts, and tails, are among the reasons for the decline.

Here in southern Zimbabwe, South Africa, southern Botswana and Mozambique we get the South African giraffe (Giraffe camelopardarlis giraffe).