It is no coincidence that World Giraffe Day falls on 21 June, an initiative of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to celebrate and draw attention to the tallest animal on the longest day (or night) of the year! And attention is exactly what giraffe need, for an animal with such conspicuous anatomical features, it has historically received very little conservation attention.
Only as recently as 2016, was the first detailed assessment of the conservation status of giraffe undertaken. This and subsequent assessments have revealed that not only are giraffe populations in decline across Africa with a decrease of approximately 30% of their population in the last 3 decades (the current giraffe population is estimated to be 111 000, and a quarter of Africa’s elephant population); but that there are four distinct species (including five sub-species) and not one species as previously assumed.
Giraffe across Africa are under threat for a multitude of reasons, and thankfully the GCF are carrying the mantle of giraffe conservation in Africa, which has thus far proved to be a ‘towering’ conservation success. The GCF is the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe in the wild throughout Africa. Their multi-faceted strategy includes supporting innovative conservation and research to better understand giraffe ecology, speciation, conservation and management; as well as the necessary collaboration (government bodies, conservation organizations, academic institutions, NGOS, communities, and the private sector including tourism companies) to secure a more robust and sustainable future for giraffe.
Multiple stakeholder collaboration is key, especially for an animal that walks vast distances and has no concept of political boundaries. Interestingly the derivation of its name is believed to be from the Arab word zarafa which means fast walker, alluding also to their ability to cover large distances.
An example of a collaboration success is in northwest Namibia, where the numbers of the desert-dwelling Angolan giraffe are increasing. This collaboration includes Natural Selection and in particular our very own Hoanib Valley Camp, where guests have the opportunity to monitor the desert-giraffe population whilst on game drives and integrate this information back into the GCF database. There is the added benefit of increased guest awareness around the plight of giraffe and ultimately spreading this important message globally when guests return to their respective homes.
We also support GCF through funding. In keeping with our purpose ‘to be a force for good in the protection of natural habitats’ 1.5% of every guest’s stay at Natural Selection camps has been committed to regional conservation and community outreach initiatives. GCF is our flagship initiative at Hoanib Valley Camp, and any guests staying here can rest assured knowing that they are making a difference to a truly iconic species!
For more information about GCF please see here https://giraffeconservation.org/
Photos: Emma Wells and GCF