Giraffe Conservation Awareness

Photo of a giraffe's head and ears up close

May 10, 2016 marked the first Texas Giraffe Day, a Texas House of Representatives resolution that Rep. Doug Miller initiated in May 2015. The day commemorated the birth of rare twin giraffes born at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch (NBWR) AND sounded the alarm of giraffes plight in the wild.

Over half of the wild populations of giraffes have been lost in the last 15 years, and in the last 40 years 400,000 have been lost.

Twins Birth Inspires Journey

Two small giraffes with their motherThe birth of the twin giraffes at NBWR in May 2013 generated international news, and invigorated and connected those biologists and animal caretakers with a vested interest in reversing the alarming decline of giraffe in the wild.

Texas filmmaker Ashley Davison videoed the giraffe twins first week of life. Inspired by their rareness, he connected with the Giraffe Conservation Organization and researchers working with giraffe to learn more. What he learned was alarming, and since 2013 he has been producing a documentary called Last of the Longnecks to provide a glimpse on the reasons why giraffe are dying.

Giraffe Populations Are Shrinking

With only five researchers dedicated to understanding the giraffe plight (there are over 50 researchers studying elephant), South Africa University of the Free State lecturer on wildlife management Francois Deacon has befriended Davison, and both worked together to develop a live action camera to place on a giraffe’s head to help identify key factors for their decline.

Fifty percent of the African giraffe population has diminished since 1999. “It’s a short timeframe for that type of Dr. Francois Deacon doing field research in Africadecline to occur,” said Deacon. “We are trying to determine “why” in order to influence better decision-making on conservation and management practices. If we don’t learn more about what’s causing their decline, we may lose this magnificent creature from our planet.”

Dr. Anne Dagg close up with Buddy the giraffeSince the birth of the twin giraffes, NBWR has hosted famed Canadian biologist Anne Dagg and Deacon as part of their distinguished lecture series, a program designed for animal keepers, biologists and zoologists interested in sharing and learning more about giraffe in the wild.

“Elephant are considered an endangered species, and yet giraffe, which are far fewer in number, are not,” says Dagg. “We must work together to prevent the extermination of giraffe in the wild.”

Giraffe Ambassador Program Connects Texas Giraffes with Wild Giraffes

The Giraffe Ambassadors with Buddy the giraffegiraffe-ambassador

NBWR’s Giraffe Ambassador Program, which began in September 2015, educated 140 visitors on the giraffe’s plight in the wild, giraffe biology and care, and what visitors can do to help giraffe in the wild. Proceeds from the program were donated to Deacon’s research.

To learn a species endangered status for  animals that live on the ranch, NBWR relies on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List on Threatened Species, which is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods. In December 2016, the IUCN reclassified giraffe from least concern to vulnerable. The reclassification is a significant step in assuring giraffe receive protection.

Researchers know that wild giraffes are dying at a rapid and unusual rate, and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is sounding the alarm, sharing information, supporting research, “I can’t imagine our planet without giraffe running wild,” said NBWR Animal Specialist Tiffany Soechting.