With less than 670 Rothschild’s giraffe surviving in the wild, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added the subspecies in their ‘Endangered’ Red List category. Surviving in Kenya and Uganda, the Rothschild’s giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) is hanging on in small isolated populations, usually in protected areas, where populations are already at a maximum.

“We hope this will highlight to the world the critical state its tallest creature is in,” giraffe expert and conservationist, Julian Fennessy, said in a statement. “As the second giraffe subspecies (of 9 known) to now be listed as endangered, we all have our work cut out to form sound conservation strategies to improve the situation in the short, medium and long term. The whole thrust of our work here is to put strategies in place before it is too late – extinction is simply not an option,” he added.

Only the West African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis peralta) is in worse shape than the Rothschild’s with none known to be surviving in captivity. Active conservation work has seen this subspecies grow from some 100 individuals to 220 today. Despite this commendable results, the Rothschild’s giraffe still remains in grave danger of disappearing.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), the world’s only conservation organisation devoted to giraffes, has worked with stabilising the West African giraffe population and is now focusing on Rothschild’s.

Now researchers are embarking on a Rothschild’s Giraffe Project to study the subspecies. This will be the first full study of this species of giraffe. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), in the meanwhile, has started up a National Giraffe Conservation Strategy which will be the first such program aimed at protecting one of the world’s most recognizable animals.

Apparently, this is not a problem facing only the Rothschild’s Giraffe. Mammals throughout Africa are in decline. A recent study found that even in protected areas, mammal populations have dropped by approximately 60% in 35 years. A recent report on the state of wildlife in the Maasai Mara has confirmed this.

This article has been adapted for the Safiri Kenya blog courtesy of MongaBay.com.