In a year filled with many…memorable…milestones, 2016 closed with a truly depressing one, as giraffes were added to a list of “vulnerable” species headed towards eventual extinction for the first time. Their numbers have declined precipitously over the last three decades, according to a report released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains endangered species lists.
The culprit? You guessed it—human population pressures.
Habitat destruction due to human activity—such as logging, farming, and armed conflicts—is pushing giraffe populations to the breaking point throughout the African continent. An ever-expanding human population, largely unchecked due to a huge unmet need for family planning, is having a frighteningly damaging effect on these majestic animals.
U.S. funding of international family planning programs has the greatest impact in the developing world, where women desperately want to limit their family size but lack the means to do so. All ten of the countries with the highest total fertility rates are currently located on the African continent. Home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife, these nations are struggling to meet the needs of their human inhabitants while protecting the natural habitats that these animals depend on.
And sadly, the implementation of the Global Gag Rule has thrown another huge obstacle into the path of slowing population growth throughout the developing world. It deeply undermines progress made towards smaller families and more sustainable communities. Humans and wildlife alike will suffer the consequences if we don’t keep fighting to make international family planning a funding priority.