Masai giraffe range across central and southern Kenya; throughout Tanzania; and an isolated population exists in the South Luangwa Valley, northeastern Zambia (formerly known as Thornicroft’s giraffe).
Extralimital populations (those outside their natural range) have been translocated to the Akagera National Park, Rwanda. Formerly the most populous giraffe with an estimated 71,000 individuals three decades ago, less than half (35,000) of them remain in the wild today.
Ongoing reports of poaching suggest that their population continues to decrease. The IUCN Red List assessment of Masai giraffe is under final review, and considering their overall decline of approximately 50%, it will most likely result in a threatened category listing. Tanzania supports the largest Masai giraffe population and it is the national animal of the country
One of the greatest threats to Masai giraffe is the rapid increase and expansion of human populations and settlements. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to increasing pressure on land for agricultural and pastoral use, poaching for bushmeat and traditional medicine, and prolonged droughts are undoubtedly the most severe threats to Masai giraffe survival in the wild. As recent examples, parts of Nairobi National Park were set aside for the expansion of a bypass road and a proposed railway is threatening to dissect the park; similarly more agricultural land is cropping up in and around the Masai Mara Game Reserve and Amboseli National Park.
Despite these increasing threats, management of Masai giraffe populations in East Africa is currently limited. GCF is working closely with governments, NGOs, Universities and international partners to better understand all aspects of their conservation and ecology including numbers, threats, movements, skin disease. A key component of GCF’s work is bringing partners together and giving Masai giraffe a space on national and regional conservation agendas – this is vital for securing their future. Based on these collaborative efforts, specific conservation action plans have been developed with GCF’s support in DRC, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Their implementation and monitoring, through the establishment of National and/or Species Working Groups, guides and supports local giraffe conservation efforts in those countries as well as transboundary in East Africa.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and a draft MoU with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), GCF is helping to drive Masai giraffe conservation efforts and mitigate threats including e.g. Giraffe Skin Disease (GSD).