Saving the world's tallest giraffe

Monday 18 Oct 2010 2:10 p.m.

A nine-day-old female Rothschild Giraffe (Reuters)

A nine-day-old female Rothschild Giraffe (Reuters)

Rothschild, the world's rarest sub-species of giraffe, is on the verge of extinction. There are fewer than 670 of the white socked giraffe left in the world.

The species was recently put on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of endangered species.

Giraffe conservationists say they are happy that the species has been recognised as needing IUCN help, but say much more needs be done to save the Rothschild from extinction.

Over the years, the numbers have dwindled in the wild. Approximately 470 dispersed between Uganda and Kenya, and an unknown number in southern Sudan.

"The threats which are facing them are still enormous and we don't want to talk about an extinct species,” says Emmanuel Ngumbi, an assistant manager at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi.

“So this is the time to take the action, not only for Kenya as a country, but in the whole world - all giraffe lovers, all conservationists should come up together [and] team up to come up with a strategy which can be able to promote sustainable conservation of the giraffe.”

Encroachment by human settlements into their natural habitat progressively over they years has led to the alarming rate at which they are disappearing.

"The Rothschild used to be common in the western part of Kenya and eastern parts of Uganda,” says Ngumbi. “In Uganda, many of them were shot down by the soldiers during the war with Idi Amin either as their practice targets or probably for their food in terms of meat."

The Rothschild's uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the only giraffe species without patches on its legs. Its legs are white from the knees to the feet giving the illusion that it is wearing white stockings.

Reaching a height of nearly 6.096 metres when fully grown, the Rothschild is the tallest of the giraffe species and consequently the tallest mammal in the world.

The Giraffe Centre in Kenya attracts tourists from every corner of the world. Visitors can enjoy the experience of feeding and photographing the giraffes.


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