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Hummer the giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

I’m just a tad late, but did you know it was World Giraffe Day last week, on 21 June? I knew, but couldn’t quite my act into gear to put up this post in time. Given that I’ve just come back from Africa and some amazing safari trips, it seemed appropriate to acknowledge the day.

World Giraffe Day in an annual event initiated by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to celebrate the longest-necked animal in the world on the longest day or night in the world, depending on your hemisphere. It’s also about raising awareness of the challenges giraffes face today in their natural environment, as their numbers drop dramatically.

In fact, giraffe numbers have plummeted 30% to 40% in the last three decades, and it’s happening fairly silently around us. It’s now estimated there are only 111,000 left in the wild. Habitat loss through expanding agriculture, human-wildlife conflict, civil unrest, and poaching for their meat, pelts and tails are among the reasons for the decline.

Giraffe numbers have dropped enough so that in 2016 giraffe were listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. That’s really not a good list to be on.

So the race is on to tackle giraffe survival before it becomes too late. Who wants giraffe to become extinct?

This year World Giraffe Day 2019 is dedicated to Twiga Tracker, which is a massive giraffe GPS satellite tracking program, the biggest ever in Africa. (By the way, ‘twiga’ is Swahili for giraffe.) It tracks the movement of giraffes across Africa. The foundation is hoping to raise US$1 million this year to enable them to track giraffes and help secure a future for all giraffe in Africa.

Twiga Tracker aims to track a minimum of 250 giraffe across their range with innovative GPS satellite solar units so conservationists can better understand where giraffe live, where they move and how they use their habitat. So far, tracking units have been deployed in nine African countries and initial data is showing some interesting results.

I’m a bit excited that the group I travelled with recently to South Africa have pooled some money for this program, together with donations from the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra, and soon we should be able to monitor the movements of four giraffes in remote Africa online. It’s sort of like animal adoption, but without the night-time feeding sessions. I shall report back with a link to the monitoring of ‘our giraffes’.

The giraffe face at the top of this post is Hummer, a gorgeous fellow who lives at the zoo in Canberra. I would have liked to have featured a fabulous, close up photo of a lovely giraffe I encountered on my recent trips to South Africa and Zimbabwe, but actually we didn’t see that many. Sightings were quite special when you realise that their numbers are reducing so much.

I know I missed the actual Giraffe Day, but if you’re interested in knowing more about the work of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation or if you want to donate, you can visit their website here.

You can also have a look at the conservation work the National Zoo and Aquarium contribute to.

Did you know?

  • A giraffe serves as a bit of a sentry in the wild. As they’re so tall they can spot a predator kilometres away and then move away. Others keep an eye out for giraffes to watch their movements.
  • Their tongues are dark blue to protect them from sunburn and are prehensile, so they act like our fingers and toes.
  • Ostriches have more vertebrae in their neck than giraffes. Way more. Giraffes have just seven, which is the same as humans, while ostriches have 17. Doesn’t seem fair, does it??