Masai giraffes more endangered than previously thought

Category : Science/Environment

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. interbreed / ˌɪn tərˈbrid / (v.) – to cause animals from different but closely related species to produce young animals that are a mix of the two species

    In the wild, some lions and tigers may interbreed and produce ligers.

  2. exclusively / ɪkˈsklu sɪv li / (adv.) – limited to a certain place or a group of people

    You can’t find this doll anywhere else. It is only exclusively available in this shop.

  3. classification / ˌklæs ə fɪˈkeɪ ʃən / (n.) – the act of putting living things, such as plants and animals, in groups based on their characteristics

    She has memorized the classification of flowering plants since she’s very interested in them.

  4. poaching / ˈpoʊ tʃɪŋ / (n.) – the act of catching and killing animals illegally

    I don’t understand why some people do poaching.

  5. savanna / səˈvæn ə / (n.) – a large, flat land covered with grass, usually with a few trees, that is found in hot countries, especially in Africa

    I went to the savanna in Africa, where I saw some elephants and zebras.


Read the text below.

Endangered Masai giraffes are even more at risk than previously thought, researchers from Penn State University have found.

Because of a valley running through Kenya and Tanzania, the subspecies has divided into two groups that haven’t interbred in more than 250,000 years. It means there are actually two smaller groups of separate species — and both are at risk. These giraffes are facing a greater threat to their existence than previously thought.

The study has shown that the Great Rift Valley running through Kenya and Tanzania has divided the subspecies, stopping the exchange of genetic material. The genomic analysis of 100 Masai giraffes showed that the giraffes had not migrated from either side of the rift to breed in the past 250,000 to 300,000 years. Interbreeding is of great significance as it enhances genetic diversity, thus shielding small populations from diseases.

The Masai giraffe is also known as the Kilimanjaro giraffe and is found exclusively in Kenya and Tanzania. However, its population has declined over the last three decades from 70,000 to 35,000 individuals in the wild, thus leading to its classification as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The main threats to the species are poaching as well as habitat loss and fragmentation, according to the IUCN. Kenya’s savanna ecosystems host three out of nine giraffe species, attracting numerous tourists.

Conservationists are campaigning for a giraffe poaching ban. “I do know that our regulations, policy, giraffes were not classified as an endangered species so if today you arrest someone with a giraffe’s product, there is no regulation at the moment. What we only talk about is bushmeat. Bushmeat is any species that is not of concern. So it is time the policymakers craft a wildlife policy immediately as soon as we can to put those animals there,” says Jim Justus Nyamu, executive director of Elephant Neighbors Center.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • According to the article, Kenya’s savanna ecosystems attract numerous tourists. How do you think the presence of tourists affects the animals in their natural habitat? Discuss.
  • According to Nyamu, it’s time the policymakers craft a wildlife policy immediately. Do you agree that this policy should be a high priority? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Bushmeat refers to meat from wild animals that are hunted for food. Would you consider eating bushmeat? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • According to Nyamu, bushmeat is any species that is not of concern. Do you think it’s okay to hunt wild animals for food as long as they are not classified as endangered? Why or why not? Discuss.
Category : Science/Environment