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National Giraffe conservation strategy workshop

Date Published: 15 Apr, 2011
National Giraffe conservation strategy workshop

Rothschild’s giraffe

Kenya Wildlife Service will on April 18-20, 2011 host a national stakeholders’ workshop on the giraffe at the KCB Leadership Centre in Karen, Nairobi. The workshop will develop a vision, goal and strategic objectives for the national strategy. The workshop will also provide an opportunity to update numbers and distribution of giraffes in Kenya, as well as incorporate the inputs and views of stakeholders.  Activities, indicators and timelines will also be outlined against each strategic objective. 

The workshop participants will include wildlife biologists (government and private), wildlife managers (government and private), local people, conservation NGO’s, giraffe experts, and others with a professional interest in giraffe conservation and management issues. The conservation planning process is supported by funding from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW [K] Ltd) and African Conservation Centre (ACC).

Giraffes are facing increasing pressures that have impacted on their numbers and distribution in Kenya and elsewhere across the continent. A total of nine sub-species of giraffes naturally occur in Africa. Kenya is the only country with three of these sub-species present. Other countries have either one or two sub-species. Therefore, Kenya is the epi-centre for giraffe speciation.  Over the past decade, giraffe numbers in Africa have suffered at least a 30 per cent drop in population as a direct result of habitat encroachment, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, severe poaching, increasing human populations and human-wildlife conflicts.

Rothschild’s giraffe
The Rothschild’s giraffe (is the second most endangered giraffe sub-species with less than 670 individuals remaining in the wild. Once wide-ranging across western Kenya, Uganda, and southern Sudan, it has now been almost totally eliminated from most of its former range and now only survives in a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda.

In Kenya, all known wild populations of Rothschild’s giraffe have been extirpated by agricultural development and remnant populations are confined to National Parks, private properties and other protected areas where they have been translocated.These remaining populations are isolated from one another and are not interbreeding.
Kenya has about 60 per cent of the global population of wild Rothschild’s giraffe with Ruma National Park having the single largest sub-population (130 individuals) in the country. Lake Nakuru National Park has 65 individuals, Soysambu Conservancy 63, Kigio Wildlife Conservancy 32, and Giraffe Manor-Karen, Mount Elgon National Park, Murgor Farm in Iten, Mwea National Reserve, Sergoit-Kruger Farm in Iten, Kitale Area Farm and Nasalot Game Reserve all with populations of less 20 individuals.

Reticulated giraffe
Reticulated giraffes are widely found in northern Kenya and in Somalia.  Data on the number and range of reticulated giraffe is limited and incomplete, with as few as 3,000 - 5,000 individuals remaining in the wild.  This estimate represents a small fraction of the 28,000 reported to have existed only a decade ago suggesting that the sub-species has recently suffered a major and rapid decline giving rise to concern about its long-term persistence. As an example, estimates for Laikipia District are consistent with a pattern of decline: 1977 - 6,398; 1990 - 5,419; 1994 - 2,118; 1997 - 2,903.

Masai giraffe
The Masai giraffe occur in southern Kenya i.e. Amboseli, Tsavo and the Masai Mara ecosystems and throughout Tanzania. The Masai giraffes have relatively stable populations compared to the other sub-species in Kenya although reports that their numbers have also suffered in recent years have been highlighted. Current surveys and recent estimates are being compiled for the Masai population and hopefully some more positive news will prevail.

Conservation planning for giraffes
Given Kenya’s heritage in terms of giraffe diversity and speciation, it is fitting that Kenya becomes the first country to develop a national conservation strategy dedicated solely to giraffes anywhere on the African continent.  
The National Giraffe Conservation Strategy for Kenya will provide national guidance on the conservation and management of all three sub-species across Kenya.  The guidelines will define the role of the government, conservation partners and other stakeholders whilst raising awareness about the plight of giraffe and highlight the generally declining population trends occurring within Kenya.  

Kenya Wildlife Service constituted a National Giraffe Conservation Task Force (NGCTF) to steer the process of formulating the National Giraffe Conservation Strategy. The NGCTF has held three meetings to discuss the key features of the Strategy, specific challenges and risk factors facing each of the sub-species. A two-day retreat of the NGCTF was held in September 2010 to further consolidate the background information for the sub-species and set the stage for a national stakeholders’ workshop. 

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