The majestic giraffe once roamed freely across many parts of the African continent. The giraffe populations have been dwindling over many decades and have particularly dropped in numbers over the past 10 – 15 years. The biggest culprit has been the sickening curse of poaching, which is rife across much of the African continent. Poaching however, is not solely responsible in the ever decreasing population numbers of these magnificent creatures.
The ever increasing human population, which in itself is out of control, but to the other end of the scale, is also responsible, as humans are encroaching more and more on the giraffe’s habitat. Human settlements have taken over some of the traditional habitats of the Giraffe, as has the increasing need for land for agricultural purposes. Feeding the ever burgeoning African population has been the death nail for many giraffes.
Giraffe’s are increasingly hemmed in by park boundaries and wildlife fences and interbreeding is becoming less and less due to the cutting off of their traditional migration routes. It is estimated that there are less than 80 000 giraffes left in the world today.
One of the most endangered giraffe sub specie, which is now mainly found in Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda, is the Baringo or Ugandan Giraffe, which is better known as The Rotchild’s Giraffe . It is estimated that there are fewer than 670 of these beautiful animals left in the wild. This makes them one of the most endangered wild life species. In fact The Rotchild’s Giraffe is now believed to be extinct in one of its traditional roaming areas, that being Sudan.
It is easy to distinguish The Rothchild’s Giraffe from other giraffe species. They are generally taller than most other giraffe species with a fully grown male adult growing up to six meters tall. Their colouring is similar to the Masai giraffe, however the Rotchild is lighter and the blotches are orange / brown in colour. These blotches are not as jagged and the legs are creamy white and are lacking in patterns. One of the other obvious giveaways if one takes a closer look are the number of ossicones on their heads. They are the only ones who have been endowed with five ossicones. They have two on their heads, which is normal, however they have another one on the top of their heads and there is another ossicone behind each one of their ears.
These giraffes, which freely roamed the Great Rift Valley for centuries, are in serious danger and there are a number of breeding programs aimed at helping these stately creatures’ chances of escaping extinction. The Rothschild’s Giraffe Project is currently studying ways to ensure the survival of these splendid giraffe’s by monitoring their behaviour and assessing their environmental and territorial needs. Zoos outside of Africa, like the Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom and a number of zoos in Australia have also initiated breeding programs to ensure the survival of the Rotchild’s Giraffe.
These mammals become sexually mature when they are in the region of 3 to 5 years old and do not have a traditional mating period. However, their gestation period in in the region of 15 months and usually only give birth to one calf although they are known to give birth to two calves. Female giraffe’s stand up while giving birth and the calves are born headfirst.
The calves are about 1.8 meters tall at birth and grow up to a height of 6 meters and weigh in at a hefty 1200 kilograms when fully grown. They feed mainly on thorny acacia trees and other plant varieties. In the wild, their main enemies are lions, while the giraffe calves often fall prey to hyenas, wild dogs and leopards. The average life expectancy is about 2.5 to 3 decades.
A lot more research and funding is required to ensure the survival of the Rothchild’s Giraffe.