Inside the Fight to Stop Giraffes’ ‘Silent Extinction’
Numbers of the famous African animal have fallen by nearly half in the past 15 years, prompting urgent—and sometimes risky—actions to help.
His mission: To collar giraffes and collect tissue samples from the animals, which have been rapidly disappearing from Africa in what Fennessy calls a "silent extinction." (Related: "Giraffes, Zebras Face Surprising Top Threat: Hunting.")
After successfully handling one of the Gambella giraffes, Fennessy and his team headed out again in search of another. But as they flew over the park, they spotted cattle—and herders armed with AK-47s.
"They aimed their weapons at us," Fennessy recalls, "and started firing. And they hit us." The pilot swooped away, evading most of the bullets, and landed to inspect the damage.
"It was minimal, so we continued on and checked on the giraffe we'd collared the day before. He was only two kilometers [1.2 miles] away