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Giraffes in Uganda

Uganda hosts the only natural remaining population of close to 1,000 of the 2,500 Rothschild's giraffes in the world. The rest are in small populations reintroduced in parks in Kidepo Valley and Lake Mburo and in conservancies in Kenya.

Confusing to early explorers, who described it as a cross between a camel and a leopard, the giraffe is certainly an awkward-looking creature. Its swaying gait comes as a result of it moving both right legs simultaneously, followed by both left legs; and its favorite food is the hideously spiky acacia, which strips of leaves using its long, dark purple tongue. Though they are the world’s tallest land mammal – even a newborn giraffe stands at six feet (2m) tall! – their neck contains just seven vertebrae – exactly the same as a human. BBC

Little wonder, then, that this curious gentle giant fascinated Africa’s prehistoric inhabitants, who depicted it in cave paintings across the continent. Unfortunately, the giraffe’s unique characteristics also led to them being heavily hunted.

Their tails alone were made into bracelets, fly-swatters, threads for sewing and threading beads, and the species found in Uganda is the Nubian Giraffe formerly known as Rothschild giraffe, and is now one of the most endangered giraffe species.

In Uganda, giraffes are found in Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and Pian-up Wildlife Reserve

Murchison Falls National Park

The recent estimate for this park is over 1500 individuals, 45 in the southern bank where giraffes were introduced for the first time in January 2016 with an initial seed population of 18 giraffes with assistance from the Giraffe conservation foundation. An additional 19 were translocated in August 2017.

Lake Mburo National Park.

It is assumed that a combination of illegal hunting (poaching) and disease caused giraffe to disappear from Lake Mburo National Park about 100 years ago. In July 2015, 15 giraffes were re-introduced into the landscape for ecological and ecotourism reasons from Murchison Falls National Park – an exciting and bold venture by UWA to expand the range of the endangered Nubian giraffe. Whilst poaching is minimal, the giraffe’s new home will be under pressure from expanding human populations surrounding the park and increasing demand for land. After the birth of at least seven calves, the giraffe population is now estimated at 22. GCF is supporting UWA and a local conservation group to regularly monitor the giraffe population and work with local communities to make giraffes play a valuable role in this landscape once again.

Kidepo Valley National Park

In the 1990s the giraffe population in Kidepo Valley National Park was reduced to only three individuals. Illegal hunting (poaching) was a major issue in Kidepo Valley National Park in the past due to civil unrest in neighboring South Sudan. While poaching has since stopped and the giraffe population has seen a slow increase, these giraffes are still under threat by habitat loss and fragmentation, and disease. All these threats can ultimately be linked to human population growth.

In 2015 GCF initiated the first-ever annual giraffe census in Kidepo Valley National Park. Our annual surveys in partnership with UWA have determined that the population continues to grow slowly and increased to 36 individuals in 2018. To provide a boost for the population’s viability, an additional 14 giraffe (13 females and one male) were translocated to the park in August 2018 from Murchison Falls National Park during Operation Twiga III by UWA with the support of GCF. Ongoing monitoring of the natural and translocated population is critical. Regular field surveys are complemented by fitting several giraffes with GPS satellite units to help us track their movements.

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