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A giraffe ambles across the riverbed in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve ©Scott Ramsay, www.LoveWildAfrica.com

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal

While walking the four-day iMfolozi Wilderness Trail, we stopped one afternoon on top of some cliffs to admire this giraffe ambling across the White uMfolozi River. The prospect of an African safari without giraffes is incomprehensible, yet it’s a very real possibility. The gentle, loping creature is the forgotten species of wildlife research and conservation. While other species like lions, elephants and rhinos claim the headlines, giraffes are arguably the biggest untold tragedy of African wildlife.

   A century ago, probably more than two million of these ungulates roamed the continent. By the turn of the 21st century, largely as a result of hunting, that number had dropped dramatically to fewer than 150,000. Today, there are no more than 80,000, and their numbers continue to drop, yet there has been very little research on giraffes compared to other prominent species. The main causes of this population decline seem to be loss and degradation of habitat, as well as bushmeat poaching - their long legs and necks are susceptible to snares, and they often die from infection or suffocation if the snare chokes their necks.