Rothschild's Giraffe Project
Giraffe were once wide ranging across Africa but are now mostly confined to conservation areas, National parks or enclosed private conservancies. Over the past decade, giraffe populations have suffered a 30% drop in population numbers, a direct result of habitat encroachment, segregation of populations, severe poaching and human-wildlife conflicts
Remaining giraffe populations across Africa are now largely isolated from one another, separated by Park boundaries, wildlife fences and the blocking of historic migration routes by human settlement and activity.
Historically, there are nine recognised (sub)species of giraffe, of which the Rothschild's giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi is one. When it was first described by Lydekker in 1903 the (sub)species inhabited the region from the Rift Valley of west-central Kenya across Uganda to the Nile River and northward into southern Sudan. It has since severely declined in number and range and is thought to be extinct in Sudan. There now exists only one remaining natural population of Rothschild's giraffe in Uganda; the rest are in small, reintroduced populations in Kenya, all in fenced areas and isolated from one another.
Current population estimates for the Rothschild giraffe now suggest there are less than 670 individuals remaining in the wild (GCF & IGWG, 2009). Most recently, the Rothschild's giraffe was listed as enagangered by IUCN with support from GCF.
(a) Historic distribution of the Rothschild's giraffe across Sudan, Uganda and Kenya and (b) the current remaining populations in 2010.
There is very little written about the Rothschild's giraffe in the scientific literature, and we know surprisingly little about their wild ecology and behavior. Furthermore, recent genetic studies (Brown et al. 2007; Hassanin et al. 2007) have independently determined that the Rothschild's giraffe is genetically distinct from other giraffe and may in fact be a unique species of giraffe (not subspecies as previously thought). As such, that is the reason for it being listed as endangered. With less than 670 individuals remaining in the wild the Rothschild 'sgiraffe is more endangered than African elephants (500,000 individuals in the wild), chimpanzees (172,700), black rhinos (4,180), Tigers (3,402) or Giant Pandas (2,500).
In collaboration with the GCF and IGWG, The Rothschild's Giraffe Project has been established to provide a comprehensive scientific review of the Rothschild's giraffe in the wild. The project will report on the ecology, behavior and distribution of the Rothschild's giraffe and investigate the effects that the remaining populations are having on their environment. All data will be used to initiate and develop an effective conservation strategy for the Rothschild's giraffe and will help support giraffe conservation initiatives in Kenya.