Franklin Park Zoo's Masai Giraffes

Reticulated Giraffe Project

Over the past 15 years, giraffe numbers have steadily declined from an estimated 140,000 to around 90,000 today. In fact, giraffes recently moved from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Despite these alarming figures, giraffes have received a surprisingly small amount of research, particularly when compared to other large animals including elephants and rhinos. However, a recent groundbreaking genetic study may give more weight to the study of giraffe populations in the future.

Up to this point, only one species of giraffe, comprised of several subspecies, had been known to exist. Taking into account skin biopsies on 190 giraffes throughout Africa, Current Biology’s new study finds that there are, in fact, four very distinct species. These four species include northern giraffe, southern giraffe, reticulated giraffe, and Masai giraffe, the latter being the species that can be seen at Franklin Park Zoo.

With these new findings, the hope is that giraffe conservation will gain new attention on the global map. To that end, Zoo New England is a proud supporter of the Reticulated Giraffe Project.


The Reticulated Giraffe Project aims to halt, and ultimately reverse, the current decline in giraffe populations. Its work incorporates a variety of methods to support giraffe study and conservation, including:

  • Conducting field research
  • Generating awareness and sharing conservation messages with local schools, universities and community groups
  • Providing support to protected-area personnel and local communities
  • Working with governmental officials in developing effective conservation policies.

Learn more about the Reticulated Giraffe Project.

Here at Zoo New England

As an active participant in the Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), Zoo New England plays an important role in the protection of this species. Zoo giraffes are bred as part of this cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. SSPs are designed to maintain genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations of species.

Zoo New England has supported a number of organizations dedicated to giraffe conservation in addition to the Reticulated Giraffe Project, including the White Oak Conservation Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Global, and the Sahara Conservation Fund. The Zoo also hosts yearly events on World Giraffe Day to raise funds and awareness for the species.

Visit Franklin Park Zoo's Animals section to learn more about giraffes.