The first ever international ‘wild’ giraffe conference was held in early July at Gondwana’s Etosha Safari Lodge. The ‘Indaba’ was hosted by the Namibia Nature Foundation, and conceived by NNF’s new director, giraffe expert Dr. Julian Fenessy. Fenessy did his PhD research on giraffe in Namibia.
Also in attendance were researchers from across the world: from the USA, Australia, UK and Japan. The clear focus was the conservation management of giraffe across Africa, but the topics of the presentations and posters ranged across all fields from behaviour, through ecology, to raising public awareness through zoos. Afternoon workshops allowed the attendees to learn more about new technologies and tools for monitoring giraffe, such as GPS collars and photo-recognition software, and the taxonomy of giraffe – it’s still disputed whether the giraffe constitutes one or two species, and six or nine subspecies.
But what was clear to everyone at the symposium is that giraffe in western and eastern African particular are in a very vulnerable position, with some populations decreasing at an alarming rate, mostly due to poaching for bush meat. Indeed the winning presentation at the conference was on the topic of the highly endangered West African Giraffe, now numbering only about 220 individuals in total, and found only in Niger.
Satellite collaring of a highly endangered West African Giraffe in Niger
On the last day, a discussion was held to identify the way forward for research, management and conservation of the giraffe, highlighting the need for a concerted effort to survey all remaining giraffe populations to help identify those that most urgently need protection.
Attendees of the giraffe ‘Indaba’ at Etosha Safari Lodge
(Report by former warden of Gondwana Cañon Park, Dr Rachel Brand, who attended the conference, and also did her PhD research on giraffe in Namibia)
For more about the Giraffe Conservation Foundation see: www.giraffeconservation.org
For more about the Namibia Nature Foundation see www.nnf.org.na
To read more about the West African Giraffe click here