National Geographic by Ami Vitale
Photographer Ami Vitale has traveled to more than 100 countries, bearing witness not only to violence and conflict, but also to surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. She is a five-time recipient of World Press Photos, including 1st Prize for her 2018 National Geographic magazine story about a community in Kenya protecting elephants.
The photo shows an orphaned baby reticulated giraffe embraces wildlife keeper Lekupania. Right now, giraffes are undergoing what has been referred to as a silent extinction. Current estimates are that giraffe populations across Africa have dropped 40 percent in three decades, plummeting from approximately 155,000 in the late 1980s to under 100,000 today. The decline is thought to be caused by to habitat loss and fragmentation and poaching, but because there haven't been long term conservation efforts in the past, it's hard to know exactly what is happening. Reticulated giraffes themselves number fewer than 16,000 individuals. Scientists are now undertaking major studies to better understand why giraffes are disappearing and what can be done to stop it.