Saving Kenya’s reticulated giraffe species


In 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. Reticulata) as Endangered, with a population of around 15 000. “Reticulated giraffe conservation is hampered by a severe lack of scientific research,” says Antony Wandera, senior research and monitoring officer at Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). The race is on to collect conclusive scientific information so that ecologists can protect this subspecies. The majority of reticulated giraffe live in northern Kenya on community-owned land they share with people and livestock.

Sadly, a study showed about 30% of communities in the Loisaba and Namunyak conservancies use giraffe parts and products. “We want to conduct a larger study about perception and illegal trade in giraffe parts among local communities,” Wandera explains.

A quantitative survey conducted with 600 residents from the Samburu, Turkana, Borana and Maasai pastoralists revealed giraffes are the most popular wildlife species and respondents understand the benefit of local tourism.

While simultaneously trying to understand how poaching affects Somali giraffe populations, the Twiga Walinzi (giraffe guards) Initiative is focusing on snare removal, distance sample surveys, and motionactivated camera traps. “As the human population expands, critical giraffe habitat becomes fragmented and competition for resources increases,” warns Wandera. The Twiga Walinzi work closely with the local populations through community outreach programmes.

male reticulated giraffe drinking

Photo: Rainbirder

As part of a collaborative effort between various stakeholders, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), 11 giraffes in northern Kenya have been fitted with satellite collars to provide insight into
habitat use and spatial movement. “All of this information can help us better develop strategies to protect reticulated giraffe,” explains Wandera. Livestock has also been collared to see where giraffes and domestic animals overlap

“Recent surveys have shown that the Garissa, Laikipia, and Samburu counties have the largest populations
of reticulated giraffe,” he adds. “Unfortunately, we do not know what habitat they prefer. The reticulated giraffe is one of three giraffe subspecies occurring in Kenya and is arguably the most distinguished. It is recognisable by its terracotta-coloured, polygon shapes, divided by thin lines across the body.

Kenya is home to three species of giraffe: the reticulated giraffe, Masai giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi) and Nubian giraffe subspecies (G. c. camelopardalis). 

coat of reticulated giraffe

Photo: Adam

A giraffe safari! See the reticulated giraffe in Kenya

The six-day Giraffes and Lions Kenyan Safari includes daily game drives, hot air balloon rides over the Mara, bird watching, encounters with the Sala lion pride, stargazing, bush dining and helicopter rides. From R58 413 per person sharing, including airstrip transfers, transportation around the Karen and Langata area, three nights at Sala Camp, two nights at Giraffe Manor, meals, local beverages, laundry, safari activities, the AFEW Giraffe Centre, a photoshoot at Giraffe Manor and more.

Written by Georgina Lockwood 

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