Zookeepers Visit Africa – Hands-On in Giraffe Conservation

by Kelsey Burr, Naples Zoo Marketing Associate

Naples Zoo is proud to be a VIP partner of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), the only nongovernmental organization in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe in the wild throughout Africa. Naples Zoo also funds the salary of Dr. Sara Ferguson, GCF’s wildlife veterinarian in Uganda.

Two of our Hoofstock Keepers, Nicole and Rachael, recently traveled to Uganda to participate hands-on in giraffe conservation with GCF and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). They started in Kidepo Valley National Park, where population numbers of giraffe were down to just three individuals in the 1990s.

In August 2018, 14 giraffe were translocated from Murchison Falls to Kidepo Valley to supplement the population in Operation Twiga III (twiga is Swahili for giraffe). Funds from Naples Zoo’s World Giraffe Day celebration in 2018 helped support that GCF operation.

During Nicole and Rachael’s expedition in March, they were able to witness a conservation success story – their survey counted a total of 61 giraffe in the park, including 12 new calves!

“While surveying, we also saw a herd of over 10 male giraffe. This was exciting for us to find a bachelor herd like we have here in Naples and to observe the similar behaviors that we also watch our giraffe doing,” Rachael said.

While they were there, Nicole and Rachael also helped GCF collar five giraffe to track their activity. “Because Kidepo is so close to South Sudan, we want to watch their travels and herd activity across borders,” Nicole said.

GCF reported that one of those giraffethey collared, a male Nubian giraffe namedLuca, was the first recorded giraffe to movefrom Uganda into South Sudan and returnsafely to the park. In a Facebook post, GCF says this information is vital for planning effective long-term conservation policies to save these endangered giraffe.

After Kidepo Valley, Nicole and Rachael and their group made the trek to Murchison Falls to collar 15 more giraffe. The group’s last stop was Pian-Upe Game Reserve. GCF wanted to survey the area to decide whether or not giraffe could successfully inhabit the area.

“Not too long ago, giraffes used to live-in the reserve. Unfortunately they no longer roam there,” Nicole said.

After surveying the area, GCF decided it would be good giraffe habitat. Now GCF and UWA plan to translocate some giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian-Upe.

Giraffe numbers in Africa have plummeted by around 30% over the last 30 years. GCF says to save giraffe in Africa, we need to gain a better understanding of where giraffe live, where they move and how they use their habitat.

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