Posts Tagged ‘giraffe’

Giraffe: The Tallest Forgotten Species

by | May 2nd, 2017

Ever wonder how giraffe communicate? Have you ever been curious about what they might say to each other, or how far their communication can reach? Maybe you see two giraffe next to each other and wonder, “Are they friends?” or “what makes them want to be friends?”

If you have ever wondered these questions while watching our 8 resident giraffe at Oakland Zoo you may be surprised to learn that giraffe experts across the world ask the very same questions. Did you know that giraffe are one of the least studied megafauna in Africa? For whatever reason these animals did not grab the attention of our society in a way that invoked our curiosity to study them like the way the lion or elephant has.

The first person to truly dedicate her life to the study of giraffe was Anne Innis Dagg in the 1950’s, but her work was ignored for decades simply because she was a woman. There are accounts of giraffe in earlier time periods, but were quite brief, and nothing was done long term. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that researchers finally began to turn their attention towards the species and long-term studies began.

So what is going happening with giraffe in Africa now? What are we learning? We know that giraffe numbers are declining, and they are doing so fast. With under 90,000 individuals left, the population has seen a 40% drop in just 20 years. Habit loss, drought, war, and human-animal conflict are the biggest factors.

Thankfully there is a small group of incredibly dedicated researchers that have made different parts of Africa their home and different types of giraffe their focal point. Since 2008, John Doherty and the Reticulated Giraffe Project have worked to develop a trauma-free way of tracking and collecting data samples from the giraffe population in Kenya, so that he and his team can continue to study the species without any disturbance to their lives. Zoe Muller has done some of the longest studies of the Rothschild Giraffe, with the formation of her organization in 2009, describing the important and complex relationships that exist between giraffe individuals. Monica Bond and Derek Lee began the Wild Nature Institute and their study of Masai giraffe in 2010, beginning the largest land mammal demography study in the world.

How can you help? Visit Oakland Zoo on Wednesday, June 21st and purchase a ticket to feed one of our reticulated giraffe. Buy a raffle ticket that day to win a painting done by one of our very own and talented Benghazi. All the proceeds to this event will go directly to the Reticulated Giraffe Project to help continue their efforts to save the species. Can’t make it to the zoo that day? Visit any of the listed projects above and make a donation directly. With your help, we can stop the decline of this magnificent and forgotten species.

How you can help wild giraffe in Kenya

by | May 19th, 2016

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.

John Doherty, keynote speaker at the 2016 International Giraffid Conference, and head of the Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya

John Doherty, keynote speaker at the 2016 International Giraffid Conference, and head of the Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya

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.

Me with Jacob and John of the Reticulated Giraffe Project

Me with Jacob and John of the Reticulated Giraffe Project

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!

Feeding at World Giraffe Day 2015

Feeding at World Giraffe Day 2015