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This week we made conservation history.

Fourteen Angolan giraffe were successfully relocated to Iona National Park, Angola, as part of an ongoing conservation effort to restore and enrich the park’s biodiversity.

Bringing giraffe back to this vast landscape is a huge success for conservation and giraffe in the wild.

In an effort to restore species diversity in Iona National Park, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, African Parks and the Government of Angola teamed up to bring back Angolan giraffe after a long absence. This week, 14 giraffe made the long journey from a private game farm in central Namibia to their historical range in Angola. The move highlights the commitment to restore the species diversity historically present in Iona National Park. The translocation was sponsored by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation through funds raised on World Giraffe Day and the Wyss Foundation.

Abias Huongo, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Environment, said, “The reintroduction of giraffe to Iona National Park is a remarkable milestone in Angola’s conservation journey. This significant endeavour demonstrates our commitment to preserving our country’s natural heritage. Together, we are building a future where both people and wildlife thrive harmoniously.”

After their capture in Namibia, the giraffe travelled over 1,300km in a journey that lasted more than 36 hours before their successful release in Angola on 5 July 2023. The reintroduction of Angolan giraffe to Iona National Park plays an important role in restoring the park’s ecosystem as well as re-establishing the region’s ecological processes. Giraffe assist in shaping the vegetation through browsing and dispersal of seeds due to their selective feeding habits.

“This collaborative effort of bringing giraffe back to Iona National Park is an extraordinary achievement for giraffe conservation in Angola. By reintroducing giraffe to their historical range, we re-establish their range, ensure their long-term survival and contribute to restoring the ecological balance in the region. We look forward to continuing to work closely with all partners involved for the long-term success of this project”, said Stephanie Fennessy, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

A thorough feasibility study was conducted prior to the operation by a Namibian student from the Namibia University of Science & Technology under supervision of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The assessment evaluated various factors, including the source population, habitat suitability, human dimensions, risks during and after the operation, as well as financial feasibility. Based on the positive results and the commitment of all stakeholders, the translocation was recommended and now put into action. In addition, African Parks conducted a survey amongst the communities in and around the periphery of Iona National Park to evaluate local community perceptions of the proposed translocation of giraffe. The assessment revealed that most Iona inhabitants are highly receptive to the presence of giraffe in the park and the tourism potential they may bring.

Pedro Monterroso, Park Manager at Iona National Park, said, “The reintroduction of giraffe to Iona marks a critical moment in the park’s history. These graceful animals will contribute to the restoration of the park’s biodiversity and serve as a symbol of Angola’s commitment to conservation. We are grateful for the partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the Government of Angola and the support from the Wyss Foundation in making this translocation possible.”

Whilst giraffe populations in general have declined in the past 35 years due to habitat loss, poaching, and other human-induced factors, recent targeted giraffe conservation efforts have seen positive effects and several populations have started to rebound. Conserving and protecting giraffe is crucial not only for their own survival but also for maintaining the balance and functionality of Africa’s ecosystems. The successful translocation of Angolan giraffe to Iona National Park serves as a testament to the importance of cross-border conservation efforts for the overall protection of Africa’s unique biodiversity.