Are you standing tall on World Giraffe Day?

Technology is the key to saving these gentle giants in the wild!

World Giraffe Day is an exciting annual event initiated by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to celebrate the longest-necked animal on the longest day (or night – depending on which hemisphere you live!) of the year on 21 June – every year!

Not only is it a worldwide celebration of these amazing and much-loved animals, but an annual event to raise support, create awareness and shed light on the challenges giraffe face in the wild. By supporting World Giraffe Day (WGD), you directly help save giraffe in Africa.

With only approximately 111,000 giraffe remaining in the wild, giraffe were listed as Vulnerable to Extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Giraffe numbers in Africa have plummeted by a staggering 30% over the last 30 years alone, and likely more than 90% in the last century. This silent extinction is happening before our eyes, but we can still turn this around if we start acting now!

World Giraffe Day 2019 is dedicated to Twiga Tracker, the largest GPS satellite tracking programme of giraffe ever (twiga is Swahili for giraffe).

Another exciting technology tool for giraffe conservation is GiraffeSpotter.org, an online platform employing machine learning to identify individual giraffe from photographs collected by researchers and citizen scientists.

To save giraffe in Africa, we need to gain a better understanding of how many giraffe there are, where they live, and how they move and use their habitat, in particular in areas where they share it with people. Twiga Tracker aims to track a minimum of 250 giraffe throughout their range in Africa with innovative GPS satellite solar units developed and manufactured in Africa by our partner Savannah Tracking in Kenya. At a unit cost of USD2,500 (deployment costs in remote areas of Africa is estimated at USD5,000 per unit!) this is an ambitious goal and we are aiming to raise a total of USD 1 million to make Twiga Tracker a success.

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GCF were first to trial GPS satellite technology on giraffe in 2002 and since then the technology has advanced markedly and helped us better understand giraffe. So far, we have deployed over 75 new tracking units in Chad, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Uganda and Zimbabwe and we are collecting some exciting information: we see giraffe move further afield into remote areas and across borders. We can now focus monitoring and anti-poaching support on the ground in new areas as these tagged giraffe are showing us the ropes of their movements.

GiraffeSpotter.org – the Wildbook for Giraffe is an online and collaborative photo-identification database of giraffe sightings and individually catalogued giraffe. The database is maintained and used by conservationists, biologists and managers to collect and analyse sighting data to learn more about population numbers and their distribution. Scientists can use photographs of the coat pattern of giraffe on both sides of their body and neck to distinguish between individual animals. Advanced machine learning in GiraffeSpotter allows scientists to rapidly identify individual giraffe across tens of thousands of photographs using computer vision and pattern recognition. You too can assist with giraffe conservation research by submitting photos and sighting data on GiraffeSpotter.org. The information you submit will be used in mark-recapture studies to help with Africa-wide population estimation of these iconic animals.

Twiga Tracker and GiraffeSpotter are a collaborative initiatives of some of the biggest names in field conservation and science: GCF spearheads the initiative in collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Wildlife Conservation Alliance. Advanced machine learning for GiraffeSpotter.org is provided by the non-profit WildMe with direct support from Microsoft’s AI for Earth programme (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ai/ai-for-earth) and financial backing from GCF and SDZG.

Celebrate World Giraffe Day with us to raise awareness and support for giraffe in the wild.

With your help we can make Twiga Tracker and GiraffeSpotter a reality and save giraffe in the wild.

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Images: Ken Bohn/SDZG, Martin Harvey & GiraffeSpotter.

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