Will the Rothschild’s giraffe survive?
When it comes to rare mammal species in Uganda, almost immediately the mountain gorilla is mentioned. But in Uganda, with its abundant flora and fauna, lives an even rarer mammal: the Rothschild’s giraffe (also called Uganda giraffe or Baringo giraffe). Today (September 2015), the total number of wild individuals is estimated at around 840 individuals, spread across 13 populations in Uganda and Kenya (in South Sudan, the species is already extinct). This makes the Rothschild’s giraffe one of the rarest mammals in the world. To compare: although still in the danger zone, today more than 900 mountain gorillas inhabit again the afromontane forests of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.
Since 2007 the Rothschild’s giraffe is recognized as a species and not as a subspecies. In 2012 the Rothschild’s giraffe was listed endangered by IUCN. If no immediate action is taken, the Rothschild’s giraffe will extinct in the near future. Extra bitter is the fact that there are almost as much of these beautiful animals in zoos around the world as there are in the wild.
Distribution in Africa
Originally the Rothschild’s giraffe inhabited the region from the Rift Valley of west-central Kenya across Uganda to the Nile River and northward into southern South Sudan.
Nowadays, the Rothschild’s giraffe occurs in the wild only in Uganda while in Kenya small, reintroduced populations occur in mutually isolated, fenced areas, including Lake Nakuru National Park. In connection with inbreeding mixing is required between the Kenyan populations, but unfortunately not possible.
The drastic decline of the Rothschild’s giraffe population began in the sixties and seventies of the last century during the civil war. From about 2000 individuals around 1960, the population dropped to about 200 individuals in 1999. Today the greatest threats are the massive human population growth, habitat encroachment, segregation of giraffe populations, severe poaching and human-wildlife conflicts.
Distribution in Uganda
In Uganda you can find the Rothschild’s giraffe in the northern savannah parks Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park. It is the only giraffe species you can see in Uganda.
The wild population in Murchison Falls National Park is according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority estimated at approximately 750 individuals (in 1991 only 78 individuals).
The total population in Kidepo Valley National Park in 1995 consisted only of five individuals (400 in 1970). In 1997 three individuals (one male and two females) were translocated from Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park. At present time, there is a population of around 65 individuals.
Late June and early July 2015, the Uganda Wildlife Authority translocated 15 Rothschild’s giraffes to Lake Mburo National Park. The purpose is to ensure the conservation of the species by spreading the population across Uganda. By spreading, the population is, for example, less vulnerable for deadly infectious diseases, which could wipe out the largest part of the Rothschild’s giraffe population in Murchison Falls National Park.
In the future more Rothschild’s giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park will be translocated to Queen Elizabeth National Park and the southern sector of Murchison Falls National Park, located south of the Victoria Nile.
When you visit the Ugandan parks Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and Lake Mburo National Park, be aware of the fact that when you see Rothschild’s giraffes, they are the last of their kind. It can not and should not happen that this unique type of giraffe will extinct in the near future.
UWA now seems to be convinced with the seriousness to protect the Rothschild’s giraffe from extinction. It is therefore not to be understood that despite two negative reports in 2011 stating that oil drilling in Murchison Falls National Park will be very harmful for the Rothschild’s giraffe, oil production just continues and has already resulted in destruction of wildlife habitat.