Discovery of genetic changes, use DNA analysis, could boost efforts to save declining populations
Researchers have discovered there are not just one but four distinct species of giraffe, overruling two centuries of accepted wisdom in a finding that could boost efforts to save the last dwindling populations.
Analysis of DNA evidence from all of the currently recognised nine sub-species found that there is not just one species of giraffe but enough genetic changes to recognise four distinct species. Experts said the differences are as large as those between brown bears and polar bears.
Giraffe have suffered a decline in number from around 150,000 across Africa three decades ago to 100,000 today, as their habitat has been turned over to agriculture. But as a single species the giraffe is currently listed as of least fear on the red list of endangered species, leaving the tallest living animals a relatively low preservation focus compared to rhino and elephant.
People need to really figure out that giraffes are in danger. “Theres only” 100,000 giraffes left in Africa. Well be working closely with governments and big NGOs to set giraffes on the radar, told Dr Julian Fennessy, lead author of the new study which assured genetic testing in Germany on 190 giraffe.
The four recommended new species are the southern giraffe, with two subspecies, the Angolan giraffe and South African giraffe; the Masai giraffe; the reticulated giraffe; and the northern giraffe including the Kordofan giraffe and west African giraffe as subspecies.
If formally recognised as four separate species, three of those four would suddenly be deemed more seriously threatened by the red list, Fennessay told, which would hopefully catalyse greater efforts to protect them.
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