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Paul Nederhoed

Giraffe SAFE

Zoo New England is proud to stand tall with giraffes and partner with the Giraffe SAFE program to save one of Africa’s most majestic species. Through this partnership, we're committing to help conservation efforts in Uganda, where Nubian giraffe habitat is greatly threatened.

A Silent Crisis

Giraffe, an iconic species of Africa, have been undergoing a silent crisis. In just the past few years, their numbers in the wild have dropped dramatically with little notice. Giraffe have already been declared locally extinct in seven African countries, and population surveys estimate an overall 40% decline in the global giraffe population.

Up to this point, only one species of giraffe, comprised of several subspecies, had been known to exist. IUCN currently recognizes one species of giraffe as vulnerable, and lists its nine subspecies as endangered or critically endangered. Genetic studies have now shown that there may actually be four distinct species of giraffe: northern, southern, reticulated, and Masai. This reclassification has led to an increase in conservation efforts, as we are learning that giraffe numbers are declining more steadily than previously thought.

Keeping Nubian Giraffe SAFE

The Nubian giraffe, formerly known as the Rothschild giraffe, is listed as critically endangered by IUCN. Primary threats to giraffe in this region include habitat loss and fragmentation, human encroachment, poaching, oil and gas exploration and effects of climate change and variability. To help bolster their population, Zoo New England has partnered with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in its Giraffe SAFE program plan for Nubian giraffe in Uganda. SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the coordinated efforts of accredited zoos and aquariums to save the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction. Through this partnership, Zoo New England supports giraffe health assessments, translocations, tracking, community education, and ongoing conservation projects coordinated by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Uganda.

Operation Twiga  - Translocation of Nubian Giraffe to Pian Upe, Uganda

Conservation translocations are an important conservation tool to bolster existing small populations, and to bring giraffe back to areas where they have become locally extinct. More than 50% of the Nubian giraffe population in Uganda is located in the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park, where there is increased mining pressure due to the discovery of oil. Over the past five years Giraffe SAFE has supported Operation Twiga (the Swahili word for giraffe) in translocating 157 giraffe over 11,000 km to re-establish or augment more than 6.5 million acres of land.

Since these translocations began, over 40 calves have been born in these new populations, increasing their overall numbers by almost 130%.

Twiga Tracker Initiative

Over the past four years, a growing network of research partners has deployed over 200 specially designed GPS tracking units on all four species of giraffe in eight African countries. Along with informing local conservation management, the Giraffe Conservation Fund is studying how giraffe interact with a diversity of habitat types throughout Africa. Unifying the understandings of giraffe movement ecology and space use requires systematic analyses across these different ecosystems. The data collected from these studies is instrumental in guiding giraffe conservation strategies throughout their range. So far, the Twiga Tracker Initiative has led to the publication of over ten peer-reviewed scientific studies, with many more in progress.