Northern Kenya is a vast, varied and breathtakingly beautiful landscape, home to some of the most spectacular and important wildlife in East Africa. This is a place where wildlife, people, and livestock have co-existed for thousands of years. It’s also where you'll find the "towers of the savanna," reticulated giraffes. They are one of Africa's most popular animals, and yet they are still little studied and not well understood. There is much to learn about these giraffes, but before we have even begun to delve into their mysteries, they are being threatened. It is now clear that they need conservation efforts to keep them from becoming extinct.
One thing we do know, unfortunately, is that giraffes are in trouble. Across Africa, all giraffe populations have declined by about 40 percent, leading the IUCN Red List in December 2016 to officially list giraffes as “Vulnerable” to extinction. Our project focuses on the reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), and current estimates show that the population of these giraffes has declined by over 70 percent in the past 20 years—from 36,000 to less than 9,000 today. The main drivers behind the decline appear to be habitat loss and fragmentation, land degradation and poaching.
Wildwatch Kenya seeks to count, identify and track the giraffes in conservation field sites, along with the other animals that share the habitat, to better understand the behavior, movements, and population numbers of the wildlife found here. Citizen scientists are being called to help researchers look through the tens of thousands of photos taken by trail cameras placed in strategic spots throughout the sites. The information gathered from these photos will help us and the local communities develop plans to help save these magnificent animals.