It allows you to do amazing things.
from Giraffe Problems
written by Jory John
illustrated by Lane Smith
Random House, 2018
The first time I saw a giraffe was on a field trip to the Cleveland Zoo. All us second-graders were amazed at its height. Its legs alone, are taller than most people I know. A giraffe is almost as tall as a two-story house. Male giraffes are 16 - 18 feet tall, and the females are only a little smaller.
What really fascinated me, though, was how it wrapped its long, black tongue around the leaves at the top of a thorny acacia tree and worked around the prickles. A giraffe’s long tongue (up to 20 inches long, but most are a mere 12-18 inches) is prehensile.
And its tongue is long enough to clean its own ears!
Giraffes eat about 100 pounds of leaves per day. That takes a lot of time. The pigment that make their tongues black also keeps them from burning in the hot African sun.
Most of the water they need comes from their food. Good thing, too. Their long legs make reaching lakes and rivers difficult.
Giraffes only sleep about 2 hours per day, but take lots of short naps. I know some people who do that, too!
Late in 2016, the most current year statistics are available, about 97,000 giraffes lived in the wild, down about 30 per cent from 30 years ago.* The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (https://www.iucn.org) consists of more than 8,000 scientists in 162 countries. That year, they moved the giraffe from a species of Least Concern to its list of Vulnerable Species. If humans don’t intervene, giraffes face extinction in the medium-term future. (As of today, 8/10/21, their numbers continue to fall even though they’ve been protected from trade in the US since 2019. International Fund for Animal Welfare, ifaw.org)
Lost habitat is one reason giraffes are vulnerable. Civil unrest and poaching also contribute to the giraffe’s decline. These are problems created by people.
Here’s a bit of sort of good news. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this past Thursday (April 25, 2019) that it is considering protecting the giraffe under the Endangered Species Act. This could lead to import restrictions on hunting trophies and body parts including hides and bones. Considering, we’ll wait and see. A letter to your congressman and representative could help sway their consideration to a “yes.” Finally.
As early as 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt called attention to the dwindling population of many species of birds by declaring the first National Refuge site on Pelican Island in Florida. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/pelican_island/
Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, but it took ten years for the U. S. Government to ban DDT.
The following year The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provided a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats. https://www.fws.gov/international/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/endangered-species-act.html
Nearly 1,700 species (plants and animals) are currently listed under the act.* The ESA has prevented the extinction of about 291 of those, according to a study published last week (April 22, 2019) in the journal PeerJ. That’s more than 99% of the species under its protection. https://peerj.com/articles/6803.pdf
The easiest way to see a giraffe is at a zoo. In recent years, zoos have become much more humane places for animals. Their habitats try to mimic a natural environment.
Some zoos are interactive. Food is available for purchase (giraffes like Romaine lettuce) and feeding the animals is encouraged.
Recently, a tiger attacked a zoo worker. (April, 2019). And a horrible incident occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo in June, 2016.
Here’s what I said in 2016 (6/14/16):
I will continue to visit zoos. My connection with animals
is fostered by being able to see exotic, endangered,
even dangerous animals. And imagine interacting with
them, respecting them, encouraging their ability to
continue their earthly existence.
The animals who live in zoos do not do so by their own choice. They are wild animals, no matter how cute or tame or social they look. When we visit, we need to remember we are visiting in their home. Be aware, be courteous, be inquisitive.
- In July of 2021, according to International Fund for Animal Welfare (ifaw.org) the number has shrunk to 68,000.
- According to epa.gov over 1,300 endangered or threatened species in the United States today. (8/10/21)