Giraffe Research in Victoria Falls
With an estimated population of less than 100 000 individuals in Africa, one of the world’s most recognizable animals and the tallest land mammal, the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), has recently been up-listed from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and added to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species Appendix II. Threats to giraffe in Africa today include:
- Human population growth
- Habitat loss and
- Changes through expanding agriculture and mining, illegal hunting, increasing human-wildlife conflict and civil unrest.
The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) began giraffe research in the Zambezi National Park (ZNP) in February 2017. The overall aim is to assess the giraffe population in the park and in so doing contribute to giraffe conservation efforts in Zimbabwe. As a species, the giraffe is now listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species but the sub-species (Giraffa camelopardalis Giraffa), or South African giraffe, found in Zimbabwe is yet to be rigorously assessed. Scientific research is urgently needed to address this knowledge gap in order to provide adequate protection for giraffe in Zimbabwe.
The Zambezi Giraffe Project was inspired by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), a Namibian NGO focused on the conservation and management of giraffe throughout Africa. As well as compiling a continent-wide giraffe photo-identification database, GCF’s goal is to further understand the social structure, population dynamics and inter-species interactions of this relatively understudied but iconic African mammal.
ALERT has informally partnered with GCF and is currently collecting baseline data to assess the size and structure of the giraffe population in ZNP and build up a photo-ID database as a precursor for conducting in-depth behavioural and genetic studies in the future. The research is complemented by conservation education and awareness-raising activities to raise the profile of giraffe in Victoria Falls as well as across the globe.
ALERT to date has more than 400 images in the Wild.ID base which has produced results of more than 200 known individuals within Zambezi National Park. This number is expected to grow as research in the Park continues.