At the beginning of the 20th century the West African giraffe were widely distributed, from Nigeria to Senegal, but by the mid-1990s only 49 individuals remained in the whole of West Africa.

These few survivors are now formally protected by the Niger government, and their numbers have risen to more than 600 individuals. However, their future is still of great concern as they predominantly live in an isolated pocket (the Giraffe Zone) east of the capital Niamey, and share their living space with local villagers.

No other large wild mammals occur in this area, and habitat loss and destruction is increasing. In 2018, eight West African giraffe were moved to the Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve to establish a new satellite giraffe population and thus assist the population’s growth in number and range. This translocation was undertaken by GCF in collaboration with the Sahara Conservation Fund for the Government of Niger. In 2008, the West African giraffe was listed as Endangered and of High Conservation Importance on the IUCN Red List; however, in 2018 it was downlisted to Vulnerable based on increased numbers and their conservation success story.

The Niger Government continues to do an amazing job to ensure the future of this giraffe population, however, none of this important work can be done in isolation and GCF has been involved in giraffe conservation in Niger for more than a decade. Together with other partners, GCF supported the development of the Niger National Giraffe Conservation Strategy – the first-ever National Giraffe Conservation Strategy developed in Africa – and has since been involved in various conservation field efforts as well as the development of a second Strategy in 2015.

Most recently GCF joined forces with the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) to increase giraffe conservation support in Niger. Together the two organisations now employ a dedicated team in the country, including a Conservation Programme Officer responsible for giraffe and antelope conservation.

As such, GCF and SCF continue to provide financial and technical support to the Niger Government and the Association for the Valorisation of the Ecotourism in Niger (AVEN). AVEN is an association of ecotourism guides who facilitate giraffe tourism in the area and help protect this endangered giraffe population through a host of related activities. AVEN staff undertake regular monitoring of giraffe in the area and participate in annual giraffe counts. At the same time, they raise awareness for the importance of giraffe and cultural heritage with local people sharing their living space with giraffe in order to reduce human-wildlife-conflict. Our support to AVEN includes the purchase of equipment (uniforms, GPS, camera, motorbikes), office renovations, environmental education, annual giraffe surveys, translocation assessments and local capacity building.

In November 2018, GCF supported the first-ever translocation of West African giraffe to another part of Niger. In Operation Sahel Giraffe eight giraffe were moved 800km to the Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve

Watch our short film on Operation Sahel Giraffe or read more about it here.

Since the translocation, GCF has provided valuable support to the local wildlife authorities and supported to development of a community game guard system to help monitor the giraffe throughout the area. Based on the ongoing monitoring GCF will assess when best to next undertake future translocations to Gadabedji and other potential areas in the region.

This programme is supported by: