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Giraffe Conservation

Giraffe Conservation

Photo courtesy of the Wild Nature Institute

NEWS: Conservation partner Julian Fennessy was highlighted in the New York Times for his work on giraffe conservation. Read the article here.

Tanzania and Uganda

In 1999 the total number of giraffes in Africa was estimated to exceed 140,000 (with nearly half being found in or around protected areas and private lands). It was thought that the giraffe population was capable of being maintained where giraffe were adequately protected.

Current estimates by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) put the population at less than 80,000 individuals. This is roughly a 40% population decline in the last decade and shows that the giraffe is in real danger. The current giraffe population is about one-fifth that of the African elephant. Poaching, habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, civil unrest and disease continue to impact the giraffe’s distribution across the continent. An as yet unidentified giraffe skin disease has recently emerged and could have potential negative effects on giraffe populations across Africa.

Limited research has been undertaken on giraffe; however two of the nine subspecies have recently been listed as Endangered and of high conservation priority. The need for accurate information about giraffe populations and conservation threats throughout the continent has never been more important.

Founded in 2009, the GCF was the first non-profit NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation of this important and beloved African animal and its habitat. The GCF works closely with African and International government and non-government organizations to promote giraffe conservation and supports innovative research to better understand giraffe ecology, genetics, conservation and management.

Researchers at the Wild Nature Institute are working on the Masai Giraffe Conservation Project, a project that surveys giraffe, in Tarangire National Park. Giraffe have fur patterns that are unique to each individual, much like a human fingerprint. At the end of each survey, the Wild Nature Institute has about 1,000 photographs of fur patterns to process and match with photos taken during previous surveys. They use a pattern-matching software program called WildID.

The Masai Giraffe Conservation Project’s objective is to understand why survival and reproduction might be higher or lower in different areas or during different seasons. Type of vegetation, access to water, lion predation, presence of other hoofed mammals (alternative prey for lions and hyenas), and proximity to human habitation are all possible factors that could influence survival and reproduction.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, in partnership with the Cleveland Zoological Society and Leiden Conservation Foundation, is helping the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and Wild Nature Institute secure a future for giraffe populations in the wild. We are working in Tanzania and Uganda to help study and protect giraffe, including the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, and to investigate giraffe skin disease in the region.

SUPPORT GIRAFFE CONSERVATION through the Zoo Society's We Care for the Planet fund. Click here to make a donation today. Thank you!

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