21 June has been designated the day on which the world can celebrate the giraffe!
Blair Drummond Safari Park stuck it's neck out and put on a full weekend of giraffe themed activities and competitions. As visitors enjoyed themselves, awareness to the plight of wild giraffe was made and also vital funds were raised to help the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
It’s difficult to imagine the African landscape of our dreams without our elevated friends punctuating the view. Giraffe are a much loved species and certainly one of the most popular iconic animals held here at the park. With the help of Gerry the giraffe, the education team and Sammy the keeper, visitors were able to have fun building giraffe feeders during our enrichment workshop, and also be in with the chance to win some amazing giraffe prizes - guess the number of giraffe poo's in a jar, proved very popular!
There is a hard reality that accompanies World Giraffe Day.
Reticulated giraffe – Fewer than 4,700. This exquisitely patterned animal has been decimated in the past two decades, with its total population reduced by over 80%. Current range includes northeastern Kenya, southern Somalia and possibly southern Ethiopia.
Rothschild’s giraffe – Fewer than 1,100 in the wild. Resident in northern Uganda and west central Kenya. The Rothschild’s giraffe was declared endangered and placed on the IUCN Red List in 2010. Thornicroft’s giraffe – Fewer than 550. Resides exclusively in the South Luangwa Valley of Zambia and is geographically separated from any other giraffe by at least 400 kilometers. However, recent research appears to indicate that the subspecies is not as genetically distinct as previously assumed. Its taxonomy must be carefully reviewed to determine if it should be categorized with the Masai giraffe or if it remains ‘split’ on ecological grounds.
Masai (or Kilimanjaro) giraffe – Approximately 37,000, the healthiest population of any subspecies. Its range encompasses central and southern Kenya, Tanzania and parts of Rwanda (extralimital population). Angolan giraffe – Estimated at fewer than 15,000. Probably extinct in Angola, its range includes most of Namibia and central Botswana. Ongoing research is expected to (a) confirm the distribution, and (b) define the extent of the genetic differences between the Angolan and South African giraffes. Extralimital populations (those outside the natural range) have been translocated to South Africa and probably to Zimbabwe and Botswana as well.
Kordofan giraffe – Fewer than 2,000. The Kordofan giraffe’s range encompasses some of Africa’s most hostile areas: southern Chad, Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo and probably South Sudan. Nubian giraffe – Fewer than 650. 200 or so likely remain in western Ethiopia, and possibly 450 or less in South Sudan.
South African (or Cape) giraffe – Fewer than 17,000. Their range includes the northern part of South Africa, southern Botswana and southern Zimbabwe. There is currently an initiative underway that would re-introduce this subspecies to Mozambique. Extralimital translocations have occurred in Angola, Senegal and Zambia.
West African giraffe – Population has risen from about 50 in the late 1990s to about 400 today. This giraffe is only found in a tiny corner of southern Niger, sharing its living space with villagers in an area where no other large animals exist. Fortunately, the government of Niger is now fully committed to the protection of this subspecies.
As we celebrate these spectacularly patterned, highly threatened emblems of Africa on this auspicious day, we should take some comfort in knowing that there are capable people in emerging organizations like the Giraffe Conservation Foundation who are committed to the protection of the species. And the genetic safeguard of sub-species being bred in captivity is being done responsibly within sound zoological institutions to preserve this most beautiful animal.