21 Jun 2017

Chester Zoo giraffe keeper, Paul Round, helped to carry out this year’s census, which was led by our partners the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA).

The census has revealed a steady increase in population size since 2015, with a number of new calves being identified, which is great news! The population in Kidepo Valley National Park now stands at 37 individuals.

Uganda is one of the only countries the giraffe ranges in that has seen a significant rise in population numbers over the past two decades and is a success story for the species as a whole, given the drastic overall decline of approximately 40% over the past 30 years.

Paul Round spent six days in Kidepo National Park with founder of GCF, Julian Fennessey, Michael Butler-Brown, Dartmouth College, and rangers from UWA. Each day three vehicles covered different regions of the park to survey the giraffe population, to cover as much ground as possible within the short amount of time. The team also took tissue samples from a selection of giraffes to assist with genetic analysis of the population.

This isn’t the first time we’ve provided man power and expertise to help with this important field work, led by GCF. It’s part of an ongoing project we’ve been supporting for the past two years that will make a big contribution to understanding more about this population of giraffe.

‘Unbelievable experience’

Paul tells us more about his time in the field:

“It was an unbelievable experience to go out and work with these fascinating animals in their environment and be actively involved in the conservation project with Giraffe Conservation Foundation that Chester Zoo supports. Kidepo Valley National park is a truly breath-taking National Park in the north of Uganda, with some truly stunning wildlife!”

On the look out for giraffe

GPS collar being put on giraffe in field

Paul Round supporting GCF with putting a GPS collar on a giraffe in Uganda. Photo credit: GCF

As well as supporting vital projects in the wild, Chester Zoo is part of a successful breeding programme. Two giraffes born at the zoo, Kidepo (born 2015) and Murchison (born 2016) are named after the two protected areas that support the key populations of this subspecies in Uganda. Sarah Roffe, team manager of the giraffe team at Chester Zoo, also explains:

The arrivals have given an important boost to the European-wide breeding programme for the species and have helped to highlight the huge pressures that Rothschild’s giraffes have come under in the wild, as well as help raise awareness of the ever-growing need for conservation projects.

Sarah Roffe, giraffe team

To acknowledge our continued support to GCF, one of the identified male giraffes has been named Chester, after the zoo.
Chester the giraffe

We’ve recently provided a significant amount of financial support to GCF and UWA towards the development of the first ever national strategy for giraffe conservation in Uganda. Stuart Nixon, Chester Zoo’s Africa programme coordinator, is a member of the IUCN specialist group for giraffe and okapi and is currently in Uganda as a participant in an important meeting that aims to develop a long-term conservation strategy for these threatened animals.