Written by Kendall Thawley
The Houston Zoo is currently home to a family of nine Masai Giraffes. Few animals are as recognizable or as iconic as the Giraffe. Their impressive height makes them hard to mistake, even from a distance. This quintessential African species is loved worldwide for their beauty and grace.
It is currently believed that there is only one species of Giraffe worldwide, and it is listed as a species of Least Concern. This means that there is not a huge focus being placed on conservation work protecting Giraffes in the wild. However, among the one Giraffe species there are nine subspecies, and this is where research is needed. There is much debate about these subspecies; research is increasingly suggesting that some of the subspecies may not be different at all and that others might be actual species in their own right. It is important for us to know whether these subspecies are their own species or not. If they are, they will subsequently be listed as Endangered and enjoy the protection and conservation attention that comes with it.
Despite limited research and confusion regarding Giraffe subspecies, what we do know is this: Since 1998, Giraffe populations have declined by a shocking 40% across Africa. In some places the decline is as high as 65%. Poaching, disease, habitat fragmentation, and civil unrest are all posing serious threats to the future of Giraffes in the wild. Their natural habitat is being destroyed by humans clearing the land for agriculture and ranching. Domestic livestock transmit diseases into the Giraffe population. Indiscriminate use of wire snares by poachers results in fatalities as Giraffes get caught in traps meant for other animals.
Standing by idly as a species creeps towards extinction is a bad plan of action. Conservation efforts are needed now to ensure that Giraffes have a future in the wild. To aid in this, The Houston Zoo will be hosting a Giraffe Spotlight on Species on Saturday, June 21st. That Saturday will be the very first World Giraffe Day, established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and celebrated worldwide by conservation institutions dedicated to protecting this amazing species. We will be having extra Giraffe Keeper Chats throughout the day and (as always) guests will have the opportunity to feed our nine wonderful Giraffes at the Giraffe Feeding Platform for $5. We will have coloring pages available for children (or adults who feel young at heart) and the chance to purchase Giraffe-themed merchandise, the proceeds of which will go directly to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
If anyone would like more information about Giraffe conservation or about World Giraffe Day, feel free to visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s website at http://www.giraffeconservation.org/ and we would love for everyone to come by The Houston Zoo on Saturday, June 21st to help us celebrate World Giraffe Day. If you cannot join us in person, feel free to visit https://www.houstonzoo.org/ for lots of information about Giraffes and to check out the Giraffe Webcams any day of the week to see what our herd is up to.