New hope for growing giraffe populations

The data has been collected over the past four years in twenty-one countries. Governments, researchers, non-profit organizations and even citizen scientists have all participated in the collection. Mr. Fennessy and six co-authors then analyzed this vast wealth of information and published the results in December 2021 in Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation, a peer-reviewed research paper.

Despite everything, the populations remain relatively small if we take into account that these animals numbered in the millions several hundred years ago. Their numbers have dwindled for decades, a phenomenon scientists call a “silent extinction.”

These giants are threatened by habitat degradation and fragmentation, climate change and poaching. In fact, their future remains uncertain, deplores Mr. Fennessy.

“We are still seeing positive news. Conservation too often focuses on the negative,” he adds.

GATHER THE PUZZLE PIECES

Gathering this data and assigning meaning to it has been a real effort, requiring untold collaboration, accompaniment and cooperation. “We can now be more confident in assembling this complex and dynamic puzzle,” says Michael Brown, co-author and ecologist for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in the United States.

In addition, field searches have become more precise. In the past, researchers typically tracked wild giraffe populations from airplanes. However, this method can lead to an underestimation of the total number of these long-necked herbivores, especially in certain regions where they hide under trees and vegetation. Thanks to a new, more rigorous approach based on intensive photographic surveys, computer programs can scan the images and recognize individuals from the unique pattern of their tasks.

“While advanced monitoring methods may be responsible for some increases in population estimates, other positive indicators have also demonstrated that on-the-ground conservation programs are also having a significant impact,” says Jenna Stacy. -Dawes, a giraffe biologist at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, who was not involved in the new study.

The northern giraffe, the most endangered species, lives in isolated populations within central and western Africa, as well as in Uganda and parts of Kenya. The new study estimates it has 5,900 individuals, a significant rise since 2015, when it was 4,780.

Many efforts to relocate or relocate these animals to new areas devoid of giraffe populations, including reserves in Niger, Chad or Uganda, have boosted the numbers of the species, says Fennessy. As early as 2015, for example, fifteen giraffes were moved to Lake Mburo National Park in Uganda. This population now numbers thirty-seven giraffes.

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