06/02/2018

Bristol conservationists fly to Africa to help vulnerable giraffe

Three conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society fly to Africa today (Tues) to carry out vital research into vulnerable giraffe.

Dr Grainne McCabe, the society’s head of field conservation and science, Osiris Doumbe, conservation lecturer, and Will Walker, animal manager at Wild Place Project which is owned by Bristol Zoological Society, are travelling to Cameroon to spend more than three weeks in Bénoué National Park. 

They will spend time tracking Kordofan giraffe and setting up cameras to assess their numbers, find out what they eat and the how they are using different areas of the park.

The number of giraffe in the wild has suffered a considerable decline. In the past 30 years the total has fallen by 40 per cent and there are now thought to be fewer than 80,000 left.

In 2016, their status was changed to Vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Dr McCabe said: “They are one of the most charismatic animals but very few studies have been done over the years which is partly why we didn’t realise until very recently that they were undergoing this silent extinction.”

She said they were targeted by hunters but were also suffering because cattle herdsman had cut down vast areas of trees on which giraffe rely for food.

There is one tribe which kill giraffe for their tails as part of a dowry for wedding ceremonies. Other baby giraffe are also taken to be sold to private collectors.

Dr McCabe said she hoped the study will lead to a national conservation action plan to help safeguard the future of giraffe in Cameroon.

During their time in Cameroon the Bristol Zoological Society conservationists will also be carrying out a drone survey of crocodiles and hippopotamus along 90 km of the Bénoué River.

They will be spending time training eco-guards who work in the national park to use the drones so the survey can continue after they return home.


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