Africa's giraffe falls by 40 pct in past decade: AWF
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2014 - 11:00pm

NAIROBI (Xinhua) - The overall giraffe population in Africa has fallen by 40 percent in the past decade and is currently one-fifth the size of the African elephant population, a wildlife firm said on Saturday.

African Wildlife Foundation's (AWF), which has supported periodic giraffe censuses, has engaged local communities to mitigate human¨Cgiraffe conflict and worked with residents to restore giraffe habitat which is being threatened by human activities.

"Giraffes are one of Africa's most beloved animals and always seem to be a part of the traditional African backdrop," said Philip Muruthi, AWF's senior director of conservation science said in Nairobi.

The conservationists are raising awareness about the plight of this African icon on the first-ever annual World Giraffe Day on Saturday when the world's tallest land mammal with the longest neck is celebrated on the longest day of the year.

World Giraffe Day offers a rare chance to spotlight the giraffe, which, alongside elephants, rhinos, and other African megafauna, is being threatened by a number of human activities, including poaching, disease, habitat loss, war, and conflict with humans over scarce resources.  

The small population of West African giraffe, located in Niger, comprises an estimated 400 individuals, while the Rothschild's giraffe, and found only in Kenya and Uganda, numbers about 1,100.

"Because there is a lack of data about local populations as well as the continental giraffe population, it's important for the scientific community to undertake giraffe research," Muruthi said.

"This will give us a clearer picture of the situation on the ground and help focus resources and protection efforts."

Over the past few years, AWF has worked with partners and local communities for the past few years in Niger to better understand and protect the West African giraffe.

"The West African giraffe lives only in Niger, mainly on community lands and farms. This coexistence with humans has led to reduced and degraded habitat for giraffe, as well as incidents of human¨Cgiraffe conflict," said Theo Way Nana, a conservation management trainee for AWF who is currently engaged in the organization's giraffe and elephant conservation work in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin.

"Much attention has been focused on elephants and rhinos lately. We cannot, however, forget about Africa's giraffes, whose populations have plummeted in a very short period of time," said Julian Fennessy, executive director and conservation scientist of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

"If we are not careful, while we are working to save some of Africa's megafauna, Africa could end up losing one of the most iconic African megafauna."    

AWF has supported periodic giraffe censuses, engaged local communities to mitigate human - giraffe conflict, and worked with residents to restore giraffe habitat.

World Giraffe Day was established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), the only charitable organization focused solely on conservation of the African giraffe.

The Giraffe Conservation Status Report is expected to be available in early 2015.

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