Giraffes have commonly been associated with zoos and remain an iconic symbol of wildlife. Unfortunately, their numbers have fallen from 140,000 to just 80,000 in the span of 16 years.
There are actually 4 unique species of giraffes including:
Before the concept of several species and subspecies of giraffes, they were not classified as a species at risk. However, with the restructuring of the giraffes into several species, many of the distinct species are now characterized by a severely declining population and grim future, such as the reticulated giraffe.
The reticulated giraffe is a tall, majestic creature that is native to Africa’s savannahs and is one of the most common sights at any zoo. They are the tallest land mammals to walk planet Earth and are currently classified as endangered with a risk of extinction with about 8,500 left.
Their population has plummeted by 78% over the last 30 years, as they are commonly poached for their meat. In the Congo, Kordofan giraffes are hunted solely for their tails, as it is culturally used as a dowry when asking a father for the right to marry their daughters.
Reticulated giraffes are distinguishable by their unique brown and orange patches.
Taller giraffes typically signal a male, which can reach from 16-18 feet and weight between 2500-3500 pounds. Females are a bit shorter and can range from 14-16 feet, weighing in between 1500-2500 pounds.
As herbivores, they rely on plants and vegetation to fulfill their dietary needs. They spend much of their time consuming foliage, particularly acacia trees, and their tongues play the crucial role of providing them with an extra limb. This allows them to easily reach tree branches, using their 18-20-inch tongues as an anchor while they can indulge in the leaves of a tree for sustenance.
Their tongues are purple in the front, which is believed to be a form of adaptation to protect from the sun.
Reticulated giraffes have a four chambered stomach which maximizes nutrients that they digest in a very thorough manner which consists of several rounds of chewing, swallowing, and regurgitation. The massive heart that can weigh around 25 pounds is responsible for pumping and distributing blood that circulates through the giraffe’s massive body, enabling body moment and ensuring proper blood flow.
Ossicones are bony horns more prominent in males, as they are used for necking, which can signify social interactions as well as a test of strength to determine a dominant male. More importantly, ossicones are also utilized as a symbol of mating rights during courtship. For females, they are used for a more defensive purpose for the protection of their offspring as well as their own.
7 vertebrae help the giraffe control and maneuver their massive necks and can reach 8 feet in length, weighing around 500 pounds.
Their powerful legs stretch around 6 feet and are used for defense and are capable of breaking a predator’s neck. Despite their enormous size, they are very agile and can reach up to speeds of 35 mph.
It also helps stabilize their body when they bend down to drink water, which is rather rare as they can survive a long time without access to water. Giraffes are also vulnerable to predator attacks when drinking from a watering hole due to their precarious posture which requires a large amount of balance. They are capable of drinking 12 gallons at one go.
Conservation Group in Kenya Fuels Conservation Efforts
Established in 2011, The Morani Preserve and Research Center Laikipia is an organization that has been promoting conservation of animals such as the reticulated giraffe while also restoring the natural environment.
Operating out of Male Ranch near Laikipia, Kenya, they are located near the Equator and in proximity to Mount Kenya. Laikipia is one of the smallest regions but represents one of the predominant wildlife areas in Kenya.
With efforts dedicated to habitat conservation and water provisions, the Morani Preserve also conducts monitoring on animal species for data cultivation, which can be utilized to expand their strategies. As wildlife and human habitats slowly begin to collide, the organization also works to ensure that both sides can coexist peacefully through education and awareness.
The Morani Preserve’s aim is to unite ranches and communities under one banner in an effort to promote awareness and establish a unified campaign to tackle the local conservation issues at hand. Their organization currently is comprised of the Male, Tumaren, Mukogodo, Chololo, Malika, and Kaparo ranches.
Their main objectives include:
Initiatives to Counter Climate Change
Tourism and Socio-Economic Development
A Species in Need of Assistance
Poaching and habitat loss are two of the other banes of existence for wildlife around the world, and this is no different for the threatened reticulated giraffe.
Reticulated giraffes don’t have natural predators in general due to their large size and difficulty to take down. Giraffes also have excellent sight, enabling them to spot predators for a distance. However, this isn’t the case with human poaching, as giraffes pose a rather simple target for hunters to claim.
Newborn and juvenile giraffes are at a heightened risk for predators as well, as they aren’t capable of properly defending themselves from an incoming attack. According to Giraffe Worlds, “Approximately 75% of all young giraffes don’t survive to adulthood due to becoming the victim of predators. That makes it one of the highest mortality rates among animals out there.”
Groups like The Morani Preserve and Research Center Laikipia devote their energy and research into animal conservation. The survival of the reticulated giraffe and other endangered species relies heavily on reclamation of sufficient habitat and environment, so these organizations will be key to monitoring and reestablishing healthy numbers of these iconic animals.