Giraffes are being killed for their tails in the Congo

Nella Repubblica democratica del Congo una rara sottospecie di giraffa rischia di estinguersi perché la sua coda viene offerta dagli sposi come dote.

There have always been animal parts that drew humans’ attention, without any clear reason whatsoever. Sadly, we’re used to crimes like the slaughter for elephant tusks, rhino horns and crocodile skin. So, the fact that giraffes are hunted and killed for their tails could appear as new to us. Yet, this is what’s happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and what’s pushing a rare giraffe subspecies, the Kordofan giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum), to the brink of extinction. According to Julian Fennessy, co-director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), less than 2,000 individuals now survive in the wild.

According to data provided by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, giraffe population has nearly halved over the past 12 years. Since the 1990s, giraffes that roam wild have dropped from 14,000 to only 80,000 individuals

Poaching in the Congo

The Kordofan giraffes live in the Garamba National Park and are the last surviving individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So, as explained by Fennessy, “every single giraffe is valuable”. Garamba National Park is one of Africa’s largest and most ancient reserves, but has dramatically been affected by poaching over the past few years, as a consequence of the country’s political and civil instability. In the park, the white rhino population has been wiped out, elephants have suffered significant losses and giraffes are at risk.

Giraffa girata di spalle
The Kordofan giraffes could become extinct due to a particular traditional habit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Why poachers want the tails

In Africa, giraffes are killed for different reasons. Poachers hunt them for their meat or for their bone marrow and brain, used to treat AIDS as a traditional belief in Tanzania. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, these peaceful and bizarre mammals are killed for another reason: their tails, which are considered a status symbol in some communities. For example, to ask for the hand of a bride, men must use the tail as a dowry to the bride’s father. Plus, the long black hairs of tails are used to make talismans, whips and cords.

The video of National Geographic

National Geographic documentary filmmaker David Hamlin, on assignment in Africa to film giraffes, has shot the findings of three carcasses of giraffes with their tails cut off in June in Garamba. Hamlin decided to document the slaughter carried out by poachers to raise the awareness on the threat posed by poaching in the park.

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