Lust for giraffe meat, organs in Tanzania leading to extinction of tallest animal

The world’s tallest animal, the giraffe, may be on the brink of extinction in the East African country of Tanzania, as they are being poached to meet the demand for bushmeat and superstitious beliefs that their organs ward off misfortune and treat diseases like HIV/AIDS.

“This is a very serious problem here. Giraffes are innocently being killed by poachers. I urge relevant authorities to stop this madness,” said Kulwa Herman, a resident of the northern Manyara Region, known for the world-famous Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park.

He blamed the large-scale poaching on beliefs that the brain and bone marrow of giraffes can cure chronic diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and also boost men’s libido.

“People are being deceived by witch doctors to believe that giraffe body parts have magical powers. It’s absolute nonsense,” Herman told Anadolu Agency.

The giraffe's chief distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, the conical skin-covered bone structures on their heads, and its spotted coat patterns.

According to the international Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), Masai or Tanzanian giraffe have been already declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The most populous giraffe three decades ago with an estimated 71,000 individuals, only 45,400 Masai giraffes remain in the wild today, according to the foundation.

But the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWRI) claims that their aerial survey data recently found a mere 28,850 giraffes in the region.

Despite the giraffe being a national symbol protected under the country's conservation laws, independent researchers believe that almost 2,246 giraffes are illegally poached every year.

Alleged poacher, officer collusion

Herman said that gun-wielding poachers from the northern Arusha region often collude with local ward officers to trap and kill giraffes. They then extract their hair, tail, brains, and fats, which are highly valued on the black market, before escaping into the darkness.

“It’s very easy to kill a giraffe, that’s why many people are attracted to doing so. A single gunshot is more than enough to take down the big animal,” he said.

Benjamin Kuzaga, Manyara regional commander of the police force, said that in the past three months they have seized 560 kilograms (1,235 pounds) of poached giraffe meat.

“This is a serious problem here in Manyara,” said Jeremia Kizinga, a resident of Vilima Viwili village. “The police force should intervene, otherwise these animals will be finished.”

William Mwakilema, commissioner of conservation at Tanzania National Parks Authority, said growing human activity and settlements coming up near the wildlife corridors in the region have also increased the killing of giraffes.

Need to create awareness

“We’re working hard along with other security organs to identify and dismantle a vicious network of criminals involved in this illegal business,” he said. “We will leave no stone unturned until all the perpetrators are arrested and punished under the law.”

Selemani Juma, a local leader at Vilima Vitatu village in Manyara, said there was an urgent need to create awareness to stamp our superstitious beliefs.

He said the illegal trade is fueled by mistaken beliefs that giraffes’ fats and bone marrow and other organs help to treat chronic diseases and increase male sexual prowess.

“These claims are not true. We’re trying to educate the people to ignore these false claims and understand the importance of conserving wildlife, including giraffes, whose population is decreasing at an alarming rate,” he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency