By Kelsey Burr, naples zoo marketing associate, with input from Nicole Thomas and Rachael Cairo
Naples Zoo is proud to be a VIP partner of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), the only non-governmental 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 giraffe they collared, a male Nubian giraffe named Luca, was the first recorded giraffe to move from Uganda into South Sudan and return safely 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.
“This experience left us in awe of the species (more than we already were) and with more reason to fight for them than ever before,” Nicole said. “While we are extremely lucky to be a part of the zoo and this career path, we are also lucky for our community supporting us and listening to what we have to say and helping us save these amazing animals!”
World Giraffe Day
The funds raised during World Giraffe Day 2019, which Naples Zoo is celebrating Saturday, June 22nd, will go to Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s Twiga Tracker project, the largest giraffe GPS satellite tracking program ever in Africa.
“Rachael and I both want everyone to know just how important their support is for World Giraffe Day. Our efforts with World Giraffe Day have gone directly into GCF's conservation work and Rachael and I are both here to say first-hand that it is absolutely helping save the giraffe in the wild,” Nicole said.
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. Twiga Tracker aims to track a minimum of 250 giraffe across their range with innovative GPS satellite solar units.
You can help us raise money for Giraffe Conservation Foundation! Join us at South Street City Oven and Grill for our Longnecks for Longnecks event this Saturday, June 22nd from 5 pm – 9 pm. There will be raffles, a silent auction, and South Street is donating $2 from every beer sold to giraffe conservation! South Street also crafted a custom drink, the Reticulated Wreck, featuring giraffe spots. Join us for a fun night and stand tall for giraffes with us!
Nicole and Rachael help hold down a giraffe while it gets a GPS collar placed on by GCF and UWA.