Animals: They were here first
Oh, to be a giraffe! Ambling about Africa, munching the treetops, enjoying the view. If you were a giraffe, maybe you’d be oblivious to the fact that your numbers have dwindled considerably in the past fifteen years - or - maybe not. Perhaps you'd be missing your old friends and lost family members. There used to be 140,000 of you in Africa, now there are only 80,000 left. Scientists haven’t paid all that much attention. You’re listed on most conservation charts as a low priority. Yet you carry on, quietly contributing to the ecosphere with no fanfare, as thousands of tourists drive by on safari gawking at your magnificence.
Thankfully, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation has taken up the raison d’être for this iconic species. And guess what? The longest day of the year, June 21st, has been set aside as World Giraffe Day! Several projects, one aptly entitled, “Sticking Our Necks Out for Giraffe Conservation in Africa", are underway to study giraffe populations to determine the best conservation procedures. Here is an overview on the primary study:
This project is establishing the current conservation status of all giraffe populations and (sub)species throughout the African continent to support and appropriately inform their long-term conservation and management in the wild. The project gathers current and historical data on giraffe numbers, distribution and threats from across their range in Africa working collaboratively with African governments, NGOs, Universities and independent researchers. The final analysis of the data will facilitate the publishing of the first-ever detailed reports on giraffe conservation status in Africa. This project will provide an invaluable framework and the necessary base for all future giraffe research and conservation management to be conducted in the wild.
Limited research has been undertaken on giraffe across Africa. Giraffe, as a species, is currently listed as 'Least Concern' on the IUCN Red List (International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), however, this has not been appropriately evaluated and the need for evaluation (driven by solid baseline data) is long-overdue. Giraffe numbers have plummeted across Africa by >40% in the past decade and a half to <80,000 individuals. This is due to a number of factors including habitat loss and habitat fragmentation coupled with human population growth and illegal hunting. As a first step, GCF is developing individual giraffe Country Profiles based on desktop research and communications with partners for each African giraffe range State. These profiles collate all historical and currently available census and anecdotal data on giraffe numbers and distribution, as well as threats to giraffe (sub)species in order to gain a greater understanding of their conservation status.
Giraffe are an important icon of Africa (and the world) and as such are a key tourism and economic draw card. This collaborative effort will help better understand giraffe as a keystone species and ensure the long-term success of them in the wild. The project is/has been financially supported by GCF, Auckland Zoo, Blank Park Zoo, Leiden Conservation Foundation and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. However, in order to complete this onerous task, additional funding is still needed. Please contact GCF if you would like to provide additional financial support to undertake this critical piece of conservation research.
And to see how giraffes connect with people every day in zoos around the world, here is a story from the Netherlands that will give you reason to help preserve these big-hearted animals! (Story by Evan Bartlett, on March 21, 2014, on metro.co.uk.)
A zookeeper who is dying from cancer received an emotional goodbye from a group of giraffes he had spent his entire adult life looking after.
Mario, known only by his first name, had been working at Rotterdam’s Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo until he was diagnosed with cancer. The 54-year-old maintenance worker had asked hospital staff if his bed could be wheeled into the giraffe enclosure and, in a heartbreaking scene, one of the animals even leant down to give Mario a kiss on the cheek.
‘These animals recognised him, and felt that [things aren’t] going well with him,’ Kees Veldboer, founder of the Ambulance Wish Foundation that transported Mario to the zoo, told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. ‘It was a very special moment, you could see him beaming.’
Mario had spent most of his adult life looking after the giraffes at the Rotterdam zoo. He asked to spend some time with his former colleagues to bid farewell.
The Ambulance Wish Foundation is a charity whose volunteers specialise in taking non-mobile terminally-ill patients to fulfill their dying wishes. Their ambulances are deliberately designed with long, horizontal windows so patients can watch the world go by as they travel.
‘It was very nice that we were able to work on the last wish of this man,’ Mr Veldboer concluded.