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Meet Dr. Ali, our Kenyan Wildlife-Saving Partner

This month, one of our wildlife-saving conservation partners, Dr. Abdullahi Ali, visited us from Kenya. He is the founder of both the Hirola Conservation Program and Somali Giraffe Project. Read more below about some of the highlights from his visit to Houston Zoo.

Dr. Ali presenting at his lunch & learn to Zoo staff.

Dr. Ali had a full schedule during his stop in Houston. He met with many departments at the Zoo, including Conservation Education, Marketing, Admissions, Rangers, Wildlife Conservation, and more. He hosted a lunch & learn presentation for all staff to learn more about he and his team are helping save hirola and giraffe in the wild.

Dr. Ali saying hello to Tino.

Dr. Ali even got to meet with our newest Masai giraffe member, Tino, who was born on April 27 to mom Kamili and dad Zawadi. He got to train alongside the Hoofstock team for a couple days and even experience meeting Hasani, our male lion up close. He participated in a training session with the Carnivore team. Although there are large predators like lions in his landscape, he has never experienced such an up-close encounter. Dr. Ali loved it!

Hoofstock Supervisor Wren Baker shared, “For me personally, this was the first time I got any length of time consecutively with Dr. Ali to get to know him a little better. Being able to compare the work being done in the field and here at the Zoo really hit home for me that it does take our partnership and working together to save a species. Tino is small but is having a huge impact on drawing attention to giraffes and opens a window for us to share what is happening in the field with our guests.”

Dr. Ali closed out his visit by helping us celebrate World Migratory Bird Day with Houston Audubon and Houston Parks and Recreation. He helped volunteers plant native plants and grasses at Sylvan Rodriguez Park to help expand the park’s certified Bird Friendly Space. About 2,400 native plants and grasses were planted in total. Dr. Ali also got to engage in a bird walk with Houston Audubon.

Stay tuned for more coming up in June as we celebrate World Giraffe Day both in Houston and with our partners in Kenya!

The Somali Giraffe Project is a trans-boundary community-based conservation project that focuses on the conservation and recovery of the endangered reticulated giraffe through research, education, and community involvement. The effort works closely with indigenous communities in eastern Kenya and Somalia regions, close to the Kenyan border, to monitor the reticulated giraffe population, reduce human-giraffe conflict, and promote conservation practices that ensure a sustainable future for wildlife.

The Hirola Conservation Program was started in 2005 and originated from a global concern about the decline in hirola populations coupled with a limited conservation effort, as the hirola occur along the border regions and past conservation efforts had been limited to opportunistic field visits. The hirola are arguably marginalized by the pressures of cultural barriers between Somalis and other ethnic groups within Kenya.