Uganda is home to one of the most threatened subspecies of giraffe: the Nubian giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis).

Once free ranging across western Kenya, western Ethiopia, southern South Sudan and Uganda, the Nubian giraffe has been largely eliminated from much of its former range.

In 2010, it was estimated that only 250 Nubian giraffe (then considered Rothschild’s giraffe) lived in their native range in Murchison Falls National Park. Consequently, Rothschild’s giraffe was listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2010. GCF became actively involved in giraffe conservation in Uganda in 2013, when our team conducted the first surveys and genetic sampling at Murchison Falls National Park.

This initial field work has formed the base for a long-term close collaborative giraffe conservation programme in Uganda involving GCF, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Dartmouth College and other partners. Ongoing conservation and research efforts by all partners indicate that giraffe numbers are higher than initially estimated and continue to increase. Due to concerted efforts to increase giraffe numbers in the country, Uganda is now home to over 1,650 Nubian giraffe – still a precariously low number that highlights the need for ongoing monitoring to ensure their survival.

GCF and UWA’s collaborative effort to conserve giraffe in Uganda is guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed by both parties in 2014 to formalise this important partnership. GCF’s giraffe conservation efforts in Uganda are a priority, currently focusing on all three national parks that host giraffe: Murchison Falls (northern and southern bank), Kidepo Valley and Lake Mburo National Parks.

Murchison Falls National Park

With a recent estimate of 1,550 adult giraffe, the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park hosts by far the largest population of Nubian giraffe and is therefore at the centre of our Uganda programme. GCF has implemented a long-term study on giraffe numbers, their distribution and ecology in close collaboration with UWA and Dartmouth College since 2013.

With recent discovery of oil in the park and only separated from the Democratic Republic of Congo by the mighty River Nile, poaching (mainly snaring) is a major threat to all wildlife including giraffe. While giraffe are not a target species, they are collateral damage in wire traps. GCF is working closely with UWA to monitor giraffe numbers and movements, as well as providing directly anti-poaching and de-snaring support. The programme helps to provide a solid baseline to assess their long-term monitoring and proactively adapt to potential threats through oil exploration.

An important tool to secure a sustainable future for giraffe in Uganda is to increase their range within the country by establishing viable satellite populations. In January 2016, UWA with support from GCF successfully translocated a first group of 18 over the Nile River to the southern bank – Operation Twiga I. This new Nubian giraffe population was further augmented in August 2017, when 19 more giraffe were moved across the Nile River in Operation Twiga II. GCF provided significant financial support to both translocations, largely through funding raised during World Giraffe Day 2015 and 2018. After several births, the new population is now estimated at 45 individuals, indicating a solid and sustainable Nubian giraffe population in this part of the Park.

Kidepo Valley National Park

In the 1990s the giraffe population in Kidepo Valley National Park was reduced to only three individuals. Illegal hunting (poaching) was a major issue in Kidepo Valley National Park in the past due to civil unrest in neighbouring South Sudan. While poaching has since stopped and the giraffe population has seen a slow increase, these giraffe are still under threat by habitat loss and fragmentation, and disease. All these threats can ultimately be linked to human population growth.

In 2015 GCF initiated the first-ever annual giraffe census in Kidepo Valley National Park. Our annual surveys in partnership with UWA have determined that the population continues to grow slowly and increased to 36 individuals in 2018. To provide a boost for the population’s viability, an additional 14 giraffe (13 females and one male) were translocated to the park in August 2018 from Murchison Falls National Park during Operation Twiga III by UWA with the support of GCF. Ongoing monitoring of the natural and translocated population is critical. Regular field surveys are complemented by fitting several giraffe with GPS satellite units to help us track their movements.

Lake Mburo National Park

It is assumed that a combination of illegal hunting (poaching) and disease caused giraffe to disappear from Lake Mburo National Park about 100 years ago. In July 2015, 15 giraffe were re-introduced into the landscape for ecological and ecotourism reasons from Murchison Falls National Park – an exciting and bold venture by UWA to expand the range of the endangered Nubian giraffe. Whilst poaching is minimal, the giraffe’s new home will be under pressure from expanding human populations surrounding the park and increasing demand for land. After the birth of at least seven calves the giraffe population is now estimated at 22. GCF is supporting UWA and a local conservation group to regularly monitor the giraffe population and work with local communities to make giraffe play a valuable role in this landscape once again.

This program is supported by: