When I ask people what they think a giraffe keeper does every day, a wide variety of tasks often come to mind. Harvesting branches, training, and of course, cleaning poop, are typically the top answers. The one thing that most people do not consider however, is being an advocate for wild giraffe in Africa. As our society has begun to move away from the notion that animals in the care of humans are meant to be entertainment, we have started understanding and utilizing our roles to help fight against the devastating loss of natural environments and their inhabitants. I recently returned from the International Giraffid Conference in Chicago, Illinois, and was fortune enough to meet some of the leading individuals who are speaking out for the wild giraffe population and doing ground breaking work in Africa.
Most people do not know but there are actually 9 subspecies of giraffe in Africa spread across 14 different countries. All subspecies are declining at different rates. This is mainly due to the variety of causes for each group. The most studied subspecies of giraffe are those that live in developed areas. Some areas where giraffe live are far too dangerous for humans to go, and most of them do not even have roads to get to the population themselves. The reticulated giraffe, the subspecies that Oakland Zoo and over 100 other AZA institutions hold, has seen a dramatic 77% decline in 17 years. Issues facing these giraffe in particular are predation by lions, livestock occupying land, human access to automatic weapons, and drought.
John Doherty and Jacob Leaidura of the Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya are working to combat many of the issues facing this subspecies. By providing their rangers with solar powered chargers, they are able to keep their devices up and running when they are out in the bush. This way they can transmit in real time giraffe sightings or emergency situations. They work closely with the children in surrounding villages to educate and build pride for these special animals, helping to create the next generation of conservationists who will keep a watchful eye over their country’s’ natural inhabitant. The most notable work John and Jacob have done is create a way to track populations of giraffe using telemetry that will not require the animal to be anesthetized in any way, avoiding unnecessary stress. To this day, adhering a tracking device to wild giraffe can be incredibly dangerous and terrifying for the animal, so the advancement in the RGP’s development is essential for the future of giraffe research.
Oakland Zoo is celebrating World Giraffe Day this year on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. All the proceeds from this event will go to support the Reticulated Giraffe Projects work in Kenya. Guests can get a chance to meet and feed our giraffes, up close and personal. Tickets for feeding the giraffes can be purchased online at Eventbrite. A limited amount of tickets will also be available day-of at the giraffe exhibit in the zoo. Activity tables, face painting, and informational stations will be set up around the exhibit for guests to enjoy. Please come out and support the wild giraffe in Kenya! I hope to see you there!