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Sunday Species Snapshot: Rothschild’s Giraffe

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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rothschild giraffeFewer than 700 of these endangered giraffes remain in the wild.

Species name: Rothschild’s giraffe, a.k.a. the Baringo or Ugandan giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), one as many as nine giraffe subspecies. Giraffe taxonomy is still an area of active study and one study published in 2007, but not yet widely accepted, suggests they may actually be six separate species.

Where found: Isolated regions of Kenya and Uganda

IUCN Red List status: Endangered, but on the verge of being classified as Critically Endangered due to rapidly declining populations.

Major threats: Two other giraffe subspecies can be found in Kenya, so one of the biggest current risks to the Rothschild’s giraffe is hybridization, which would effectively water down their genetics. The hunting and poaching that originally reduced the Rothschild’s numbers no longer appear to be a problem, but the animals have been forced into smaller and smaller areas and many groups are probably too small for their long-term health. In addition scientific knowledge of the subspecies has hampered conservationists’ ability to grow the population.

Previous Extinction Countdown articles about this species:

Notable conservation programs: Approximately 450 Rothschild’s giraffes live in zoos around the world, where they are actively bred. The Rothschild’s Giraffe Project works to research and conserve the subspecies in Africa.

Multimedia: Check out this video of a running herd of Rothschild’s giraffes:

Photo by Bernard Dupont via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. tuned 12:32 pm 11/24/2013

    I luv giraffes!
    What kind of $}{!+ poaches a giraffe?

    Link to this
  2. 2. David Brown Infinity 1:01 pm 11/24/2013

    Thanks for highlighting the need for Rothschild’s giraffe conservation. The genetics work done on the giraffe subspecies of East Africa shows that they have been separated for likely hundreds of thousands or millions of years, so hybridization is probably not a major conservation concern. The limited amount of habitat available in Kenya for the Rothschild’s giraffe is likely their long term problem.

    Link to this
  3. 3. tuned 1:23 pm 11/24/2013

    @David Brown Infinity
    Nice paragraph, milquetoast.
    That’ll rouse the masses to save them.

    Link to this
  4. 4. David Brown Infinity 1:43 pm 11/24/2013

    tuned, you’re rudeness certainly won’t save any wildlife. Conservation is a team sport and people need to work together.

    If people want to help giraffes they can check out the conservation work being done through the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the Reticulated Giraffe Project, and the Masai Giraffe Census Project.

    Excellent conservation work for the Rothschild’s giraffe is being done by GCF and Care for Karamoja.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Therapsid 1:54 pm 11/24/2013

    If biologists really want to save the Rothschilds Giraffe, they could go ahead and ditch their professional ethics and split the subspecies off of Giraffa camelopardalis altogether.

    Splitting giraffes into multiple species has been floated by scientists already.

    Once it’s a separate species they can attract more attention and dollars to conserving the beast. Maybe they can get the current heirs to the Rothchild fortune to donate some money.

    Link to this

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