The taxonomic status of Botswana’s giraffe was assumed to be clear cut before GCF undertook a country-wide genetic assessment of the major populations in 2013.
The results were definitely unexpected.
While all giraffe in Botswana are Southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), there appears to be a split in the country when it comes to subspecies: South African giraffe (G. g. giraffa) occur in the northern areas of the country e.g. Chobe, Moremi and Okavango Delta, whilst the Central Kalahari is home to Angolan giraffe (G. g. angolensis). This ‘cryptic rift valley’ highlights how little we now about speciation and the drivers behind it. In this case it most likely relates to a major episode of aridity in a Pleistocene glacial period which resulted in geographically isolated giraffe populations with reduced gene flow.
Recent research on several South African giraffe populations was conducted by Dr Kylie McQualter working collaboratively with a number of local partners through the University of New South Wales, and supported by GCF. GCF continues to collect genetic samples from giraffe in Botswana and explores future giraffe conservation action opportunities in the country.