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Disappearing in silence

This post is written by conservation ecologist (and Natural High client) David O'Connor

"Giraffe are icons of Africa, found nowhere else. They are adored by children as toys and book characters. Giraffe are up there with elephants, rhinos, whales, and lions as wildlife dignitaries in the minds of the public. However, compared to those species, we know relatively little about giraffe. They are the forgotten megafauna.

For instance, we don’t fully understand how they herd and socialize with each other, they have fission-fusion assemblages, with individuals wandering in and out of groups seemingly willy-nilly, without anyone in charge.

We don’t know how they communicate, they are largely silent, but some researchers think they communicate infrasonically, we still don’t know why the long neck! In fact we aren’t sure on how many types of giraffe there are. Current consensus is that there are nine sub-species.

Here is what we do know. They are integral to their ecosystems, opening up habitat for other wildlife, spurring growth of new Acacia forage, pollinating, and dispersing seeds. They are an extremely important for savanna ecosystem functioning.

We also know that all the indicators are that giraffe are disappearing in silence. Overall, giraffe numbers have by 40% in just the last 15 years from 140,000 to an estimated 80,000 today.

Some types of giraffe are suffering more than others, there are only about 1,000 Rothschild’s giraffe left in the wild, and the reticulated giraffe numbers have drastically declined by over 80% over the last 15 years, with only 4,700 remaining.

At that rate they will be extinct by 2019. In fact, they will shortly be listed as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.

There are several reasons, we think, for these declines. We need more data, but the suspected leading causes for the population decline are habitat loss and negative interactions with humans.

Specifically, the main threats are increased heavy poaching, habitat fragmentation, and loss of resources due to land degradation and possible competition with livestock (especially camels) for resources.

We must act, and fast. For this reason, together with our partners and alongside pastoralists, we are harnessing our collective giraffe expertise to take up the fight against giraffe extinction.

We have developed a community-based research and conservation project that focuses on reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) in northern Kenya.

Our program has been developed with our partners the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the West Gate Community Conservancy, a 40,350 ha Samburu community in the Ewaso-Ngiro system in northern Kenya.

We are piloting this two-year project community-driven conservation project in the heart of the reticulated giraffe’s range at West Gate Conservancy which is representative of pastoralist land use that exists across much of the reticulated giraffe’s range.

We will use novel socio-ecological approaches to contribute to a holistic understanding of giraffe ecology and the drivers of decline. You can watch a video on the project here and find an overview of it here

Reticulated giraffe are slipping away in silence, but we can help prevent their disappearance by acting swiftly, and by using collaborative, localized, multi-pronged conservation initiatives that are developed in concert with the communities who will ultimately determine the fate of these magnificent, graceful creatures, the very watchtowers of the savanna.

Please help support our work here, all contributions go directly to on the groundwork in Kenya, and U.S.-based contributions are tax-deductible. 100% of all funding raised goes to on-the-ground work in Kenya."

If you'd like to help David raise $60,000 for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, please take a look at his Crowdrise page

Posted by: Alex

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