As a science-based organisation, our programmes and initiatives throughout Africa aim to provide innovative and adaptive approaches to giraffe conservation management while working with government agencies and a wide range of partners on the ground and internationally to secure a future for giraffe.

Through our Giraffe Conservation Health initiative, we are tackling these priorities from a veterinary science and conservation medicine perspective.

This new initiative incorporates a wide range of aspects, from evaluating the best immobilisation practices for giraffe, addressing disease threats and health issues in wild giraffe populations and enhancing capacity building of the next generation of Africa’s wildlife veterinarians, to assisting in the development of new technology for satellite tracking and methods for conservation translocations.

Immobilising giraffe is a challenging task that many wildlife veterinarians shy away from. While their long neck and graceful legs make them one of the most iconic animals in Africa, this unique anatomy and physiology requires a true mastery of wildlife capture and immobilisation. In the past giraffe mortality from anaesthetic procedures has been as high as 10% – even higher in some countries. This means that it was widely accepted that one in every ten giraffe died during capture or anaesthesia – to put this in perspective, the risk your pet dog will not survive an anaesthetic procedure with your local veterinarian is one out of every 2,000 dogs. However, with constant scientific analysis of current immobilisation practices and advanced training, we can significantly reduce this risk and bring it close to zero. In an ideal world we would not need to put giraffe at risk through immobilisation, however, it is a critical part of some of our work, where we learn so much more about giraffe to inform our conservation programmes (Twiga Tracker), undertake conservation translocations that have already expanded the giraffe range in Africa by over 6.5 million acres (Operation Twiga), and also the quick and effective treatment given to giraffe entangled in illegal wire snares that truly help saving these species. Working together with the foremost wildlife veterinarians and wildlife capture teams in Africa, it is our goal to develop best practice guidelines and equip wildlife veterinary and capture teams with experience and knowledge to ensure the safety of wild giraffe.

Building the capacity of local Africans is at the core of our work throughout the continent and this is also one of the main priorities of our Giraffe Conservation Health initiative. GCF has been instrumental in providing capacity building during our in-country projects as well as supporting African veterinarians to receive additional training in targeted wildlife medicine and game capture courses and exchange visits over the past decade. To provide increased training opportunities for African veterinarians, we are further developing our veterinary internship programme in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, that offers a 2-year, hands-on training opportunity for recent Ugandan veterinary graduates by pairing them with experienced practitioners to support the work of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). This programme offers an amazing opportunity for young Ugandan veterinarians to gain valuable experience in wildlife capture of giraffe and other wildlife species in the park including lion, elephant, different antelope species, chimpanzees and more, by working alongside the UWA team in rescuing wildlife affected by illegal wire snare traps.

GCF, in partnership with Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, Wildscapes Veterinary, Southern African Wildlife College, and the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, has developed a hands-on practical wildlife immobilisation course tailored to the needs of African wildlife veterinarians. The course aims to increase the confidence and ability of African wildlife veterinarians under the tutelage of experienced experts in the field. As wildlife conservation initiatives are become more prominent in many African countries, there is a distinct need to train and invest in local wildlife veterinarians throughout the continent and develop opportunities for capacity building and networking of wildlife veterinarians. This is a unique and dynamic course, tailored to small groups of participants with mostly hands-on experience on actual conservation projects combined with few focal lectures.

As with all our initiatives, Giraffe Conservation Health also aims at addressing knowledge gaps in giraffe conservation. Relatively little is known about diseases that affect giraffe in the wild and assess whether any of these diseases or medical conditions are of concern to the survival of these species. Giraffe Skin Disease (GSD) is one such condition and GCF continues improve our understanding and impact on giraffe. GSD is an emerging disease largely observed in East Africa, which causes grey scaly lesions on the neck, shoulders, and limbs. We are currently investigating how this disease, which is most likely caused by a skin parasite, is spread and its potential impact on giraffe long-term health. We work closely with African governments as well as national and international partners to identify and further investigate different aspects of giraffe health as they arise and determine the best way for addressing them. At the same time, we constantly review current medial practices and new advancements in giraffe health to make best-practice protocols freely available to all interested parties.

Our ambition is to establish an Africa-wide network of working and highly qualified veterinary professionals who will collaborate and continue to enhance giraffe conservation throughout the continent.

This programme is supported by: