When you talk about rare and most endangered mammal species in Uganda, nearly immediately the mountain gorilla is mentioned. But due to Uganda’s abundant flora and fauna, exists an even rarer mammal: the Rothschild’s giraffe (also called Baringo giraffe). Today the total number of wild individuals is estimated at approximately 840 individuals, spread across 13 populations in Uganda and Kenya (in South Sudan, the species is already extinct). This lists the Rothschild’s giraffe among the rarest mammals in the world. To compare: although still in the danger zone, currently about 900 individuals of mountain gorillas inhabit again the afro-montane forests of Uganda, Rwanda and D.R Congo.
From 2007, after the Rothschild’s giraffe was recognized as a species rather than a subspecies, in 2012 this Rothschild’s giraffe was listed endangered by IUCN. If no urgent action is taken, the Rothschild’s giraffe is bound to extinct in the near future. Extra bitter fact is that there are almost as much of these beautiful animals in zoos around the world as there are in the wild.
Distribution in Africa
Initially the Rothschild’s giraffe occupied the region from the Rift Valley of west-central Kenya across Uganda to the Nile River and northward into southern South Sudan.
Today, the Rothschild’s giraffe happens in the wild only in Uganda whereas in Kenya slowly reintroduced populations occur in mutually isolated, boundary marked areas, including Lake Nakuru National Park. In connection with inbreeding mixing is required between the Kenyan populations, but sadly not possible.
The radical decline of the Rothschild’s giraffe population started in mid sixties and seventies of the last century during the civil wars from about 2000 individuals around 1960 the population slumped down to about 200 individuals in 1999. Nowadays the greatest threats to their survival include the massive human population growth, habitat encroachment, and severe poaching and human-wildlife conflicts.
Rothschild’s giraffe distribution in Uganda
In Uganda Rothschild’s giraffe can be found in the several savannah parks including Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park Uganda’s oldest reserve park. A few years back the Uganda Wildlife Authority re-introduced Rothschild’s giraffe in another Savannah park, Lake Mburo National Park in western Uganda and the good news is that this year (2018) they gave birth to their first baby a sign integration success. It is the only giraffe species you can find in Uganda.
Their population in the wild only in Murchison Falls National Park according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is approximated at 750 individuals (in 1991 only 78 individuals).
Kidepo Valley National Park had a total population of only of five individuals in 1995 (400 in 1970). In 1997 three individuals (one male and two females) were translocated from Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park. At present time, there is a population of around 65 individuals.
In June and July 2015, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) translocated 15 Rothschild’s giraffes to Lake Mburo National Park in Western Uganda. The purpose is to ensure the conservation of the endangered species by spreading their population across the country. By spreading, the population is for example, less vulnerable for deadly infectious diseases, which could wipe out the largest part of the Rothschild’s giraffe population in Murchison Falls National Park.
It is expected that more Rothschild’s giraffes will be translocated from Murchison Falls National Park to Queen Elizabeth National Park and the southern sector of Murchison Falls National Park, located south of the Victoria Nile in the near future.
Visit the Uganda and support their survival especially in Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and Lake Mburo National Park, be aware of the fact that when you see Rothschild’s giraffes, they are the last of their kind. It should not happen that this unique type of giraffe will extinct in the near future.
UWA a Uganda’s wildlife governing body now seems to be certain with the seriousness to protect the Rothschild’s giraffe from extinction. It is therefore not to be understood that despite two negative reports in 2011 stating that oil drilling in Murchison Falls National Park will be very harmful for the Rothschild’s giraffe, oil production just continues and has already resulted in destruction of wildlife habitat.