Celebrating World Giraffe Day

Irene Kanga, Monitoring Officer for our Saving Meru’s Giants programme in Kenya, tells us how Born Free is helping protect giraffes in Meru. 

A single giraffe standing tall in Meru National Park

(c) Will Burrard-Lucas

With your help, Born Free is standing tall for giraffes on World Giraffe Day (21st June), and there is plenty to celebrate. Since 2021, our conservation team has been hard at work with local communities in Meru Conservation Area, in eastern Kenya, to monitor rare reticulated giraffes and help ensure their safe future. This work has already had a big impact, as Irene Kanga from our Kenyan team explains. 

A close up portrait photo of Irene Kanga

Irene Kanga, Saving Meru’s Giants Monitoring Officer

World Giraffe Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate giraffes and raise awareness about the threats they face. There is an urgent need to protect this remarkable species and their habitats for future generations. 

Giraffes are an iconic species of African landscapes, found in a range of habitats from savannahs to woodlands. They play a critical role within the ecosystems they live in by promoting fresh vegetation growth by grazing on leaves, grass, flowers and fruit, as well as being important seed dispersers. Their incredibly long necks allow them to the reach high branches other species cannot get to.  

Threats like habitat loss, poaching and climate change have left these gentle giants at risk of extinction, and the species is now classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

The reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. reticulata) is a subspecies of giraffe, found only in Kenya, Somali and Ethiopia. Just under 16,000 are estimated to remain and they are classified as Endangered by IUCN due to their continued population decline. An estimated 1,443 reticulated giraffes are found in the Meru-Greater Kora Ecosystem. This represents approximately 10% of the global population of reticulated giraffes, making the Meru landscape an important stronghold for the species. Since 2022, our monitoring team has identified 392 reticulated giraffes approximately 27.2% of the Meru-Greater Kora Ecosystem population. 

Our field monitoring provides valuable data that is critical for informing effective conservation strategies and management. It improves our understanding of the distribution and habitat use of giraffes across the Meru landscape, which helps guide our work such as informing the deployment of our Twiga (Swahili for ‘giraffe’) Team which conducts patrols and removes deadly snares. Monitoring changes in giraffe group size and composition over time also gives us an indication of the health of the population. The identification of individuals is contributing to a regional photo-identification database of giraffe encounters and individually catalogued giraffe across Africa, which will help to understand population numbers and distribution at a much larger scale. 


Two giraffes facing in opposite directions, stood one in front of the other

(c) georgelogan.co.uk

Giraffe monitoring is carried out during dawn and dusk when giraffes are most active. Monitoring methods include direct observations through opportunistic sightings, whereby observers record information on group size, group composition, habitat, behaviour, health status and location. In addition, the team captures high-resolution images of the right side of each giraffe to use their unique spot pattern for identification, which is unique, similar to human fingerprints. The shape, size, and arrangement of spots are distinct for each individual. 

Helping protect giraffes involves a multi-faceted approach that includes direct conservation efforts, habitat management, community engagement, research and strengthening anti-poaching efforts. Born Free plays a key role in this giraffe focussed conservation work in Meru through regular monitoring of the giraffe population, alongside patrolling protected areas and removal of snares from wildlife habitats to help prevent the loss of giraffes.  

Through our adoption programme, Born Free encourages supporters to donate towards the care and conservation of wild animals, including our Meru Giraffe Family. Adopters play a crucial role in giraffe conservation by providing financial resources, allowing the team on the ground to raise awareness, support local communities, enhance conservation efforts, and advocate for policy change. This collective effort contributes significantly to the protection and preservation of giraffes and their habitats. 

Two adult giraffes stretching their necks out to touch heads, with a baby giraffe standing between them

Adopt a Giraffe

You can help support our vital giraffe conservation work by adopting the Giraffe Family in Meru today.

Adopt A Giraffe