2016: Desert Giraffe of Nambia
Giraffe Conservation Foundation
As a conservation supporter, I was privileged to be invited out to Namibia in late 2016 to join Giraffe Conservation Foundation researcher Emma Hart in the north-west of Namibia, where she is conducting research into the desert dwelling giraffe, Giraffa cameleopardalis angolensis.
Emma's work is looking into the social structure of giraffe, home range analysis, communication and anticipation of food supply, as well as displacement by elephant presence.
There are thought to be approximately 200 Angolan giraffe in the research area, and Emma will spend the next four years studying them, along with the 20-30 elephants present.
GCF are en-devouring to make important connections with zoological collections all over the world, to help promote the plight of giraffe, to raise much needed funds and awareness. To this end, on this trip we were joined by Todd Maki and Paige Millican from Colombus Zoo, Ohio; USA, Brooke Rose from Wildwood Wildlife Park, Wisconsin, USA; Katie Lind from Dakota Zoo, North Dakota, USA, Michelle Wagner from Naples Zoo, Florida, USA and Justine Godin from Paris Zoo, France.
Track 5 GPS collared giraffe (collared in May 2016) to establish movements.
ID photographs were taken in the field of each giraffe encountered; cross referenced with previously seen giraffe from Emma's ID book to establish whether the giraffe is new to the study, or previously seen.
GPS locations were taken for each giraffe encountered, so Emma can track the movements of giraffe between sightings.
Elephant were also GPS and photo ID'd to reference their interactions or contact with giraffe.
A lot of other information was taken for each giraffe such as; age, sex, whether they were in a herd or solitary, whether they had offspring, any distinguishing features, or signs of illness, growths etc..
All this data was inputted into Emma's records when we got back to Windhoek, and new ID sheets were made up for the ID books of new giraffe.
Emma will visit the research site for 2 weeks at a time, every month, with a two week break back in Windhoek for data entry and to give the giraffe time to move around before being seen again.
133 giraffe seen on my visit.
117 were in the study area.
64 turned out to be new ID's for the research books.
Taking the new total population / sample size to 261. That's 61 above the previously thought population!
We all had a LOT of fun on this trip, thanks to Emma and Todd securing a grant from the Columbus Zoo, which made it possible for us to have a second vehicle, which meant the 8 of us could go together, see more giraffe and collect more data than would have been possible with one vehicle and less eyes working on it, and have some giggles along the way! All in aid of giraffe research which we are all passionate about.
We got to name a few new giraffe: Jason (after Jason Donovan of course!) and Norman (after Norman Reedus) were two particular favourites :)
GCF and Emma have 7 more ambassadors for giraffe research and conservation, across the USA, UK And France, who will spread the word, and help raise funds for more research each World Giraffe Day, June 21st.
This project is right at the beginning of a four year study, so results are a far way off! But some interesting things occurred on this trip:
- 2 giraffe were spotted in the Skeleton Coast National Park, which had previously been identified 13 years ago by Todd Maki and Julian Fennessy on a previous research trip. This not only dates one of the males at over 20 years old, but also suggests he has spent his entire life in that area. Giraffe longevity in the wild is still unknown, as are home ranges, which Emma is looking into, so this is very interesting news!
- It rained for the first time in 2 years on our way back into Windhoek, to everyone's delight!
- I discovered that even the toughest of animal keepers, are not always happy to go to the toilet with a Long-Spinnered Bark Spider, or Solifuge's!
- And after 2 weeks in the desert without water (except for drinking), 6 girls can get quite excited at the site of a 'swimming pool' smaller than your average garden pond! :)