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Giraffes might be in serious trouble

Their population has plummeted by 40 percent in three decades.

The population of the world's tallest mammal is plummeting.

The global population of giraffes has dropped by about 40 percent over the past 30 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said Thursday.

There were roughly 151,702-163,452 giraffes in 1985. By 2015 that number had dropped to 97,562.

The IUCN, which designates endangered species, says the animal is being threatened with extinction in Africa because of growing human populations and their conflicts with wildlife, expanding agriculture and mining, civil unrest, and illegal hunting.

This drastic decline has led the IUCN to move giraffes from "least concern" to "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The list ranks thousands of animals based on their level of vulnerability – from least concern to extinct.

“Whilst giraffes are commonly seen on safari, in the media and in zoos, people – including conservationists – are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction," Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN's giraffe and okapi specialist group, said in a statement. "As one of the world's most iconic animals, it is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late."

resolution adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September calls for action to reverse the declining giraffe population. It asks groups to pay more attention to giraffes, and increase funding and monitoring of the animal.

Giraffes were among the hundreds of animals and plants that were added to the Red List this week, including 700 newly recognized birds (11 percent of which are threatened with extinction), as well as the first assessments of wild oats, barley and mango (four species of mango are listed as endangered), according to the news release.

The Red List currently covers 85,604 species of plants and animals, AFP reports, including 24,307 that face the threat of extinction.

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