Tag Archives: giraffe

Sticking our necks out for World Giraffe Day

AMHG365 Rothschild's giraffe male
Curious male posing for our World Giraffe Day photo call

If we ever needed reminding just how awesome, and amusing giraffes can be, then our visit last week to photograph the rare Rothschild’s giraffes at Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire, here in the UK, for today’s first ever World Giraffe Day, wasn’t a bad way to do it.

Crouched uncomfortably on the back of an open pick-up in their large enclosure with keeper Lindsay Banks, researcher Dominique Rhoades and a prickly pile of fresh browse for them to eat, we were soon being nudged and bumped by half a dozen big bony heads as their long necks craned in to reach the choicest bits of food.

BCF09 Rothschild's giraffe feeding at Woburn Safari Park
No shortage of willing subjects when there’s a free buffet!

All teeth and purple tongues, these huge and breath-taking animals had us surrounded as they gently nibbled from the impromptu buffet at our feet. It didn’t take long for either photographers or subjects to lose their inhibitions and we were all soon deftly negotiating our way around each other to get exactly what we wanted!

BCF02 Rothschild's giraffes feeding at Woburn Safari Park
Wide angle lenses at the ready – these guys aren’t shy

We’ve photographed giraffes umpteen times on our African adventures in the past, but have never been close enough to feel their breath before (or be dribbled on!) It was a real treat sitting among a swaying forest of necks with a privileged view of them quietly and intently feeding. Thanks to all the keepers and crew at Woburn who helped make it happen on the day.

The reason for our up close and personal giraffe encounter? Today’s the first-ever annual giraffe day, launched by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) wildlife charity to raise awareness about the plight of giraffe. Despite being an iconic African animal, and the tallest mammal on the planet, the giraffe’s conservation needs have been sadly overlooked. There are now fewer than 80,000 giraffe in the wild, less than a fifth the number of elephants.

BCF05 Rothschild's giraffes at Woburn Safari Park
Rothschild’s giraffes at home at Woburn Safari Park in the UK

Woburn Safari Park, with a herd of 17 Rothschild’s giraffes, is one of 50 wild animal collections celebrating World Giraffe Day today with a series of special events. We wanted to do something to help flag up this first ever global giraffe day so we arranged the special photo-call through our links with the GCF. Having just done a book on giraffes we’ve become even more aware of just how special these creatures are and of the real need for conservation initiatives like those supported by the foundation.

BCF08 Senior keeper Lindsay Banks feeding Rothschild's giraffe a
Keep Lindsay Banks with some of her charges

For example there are only 1,000 or so Rothschild’s giraffes in the wild and Woburn’s successful breeding herd of this rare sub-species, managed by keeper Lindsay to promote natural social structure within the herd, is helping bolster genetic variation in the wild population. Two more calves are expected to be born there any day.

‘Giraffe play an important part in the African eco-system, opening up areas for new growth and dispersing seeds,’ says former keeper and giraffe conservationist Dominique. ‘The misconception that giraffe are abundant is the reason why World Giraffe Day is so important in order to raise awareness of their needs in Africa and to ensure their future survival,’ she says.

BCF12 Rothschild's giraffe feeding at Woburn Safari Park
Let’s hear it for giraffes on June 21, 2014

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation was set up to promote and support giraffe conservation, particularly in parts of Africa where giraffe populations are in trouble. Its chairman, leading giraffe expert Dr Julian Fennessey, is hoping this first dedicated day for giraffes will throw a much-needed spotlight on these amazing animals. ‘The need to increase education and awareness about giraffes is critical at a time when their numbers are plummeting. They truly are the forgotten megafauna,’ he says.

Not anymore!

You can find our Giraffe ebook on the iTunes store. For more info about giraffes, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation website is well worth a look.

Tall Stories: New Giraffe eBook out now!

screengrab coverWe’ve always had a soft spot for giraffes. Maybe it’s those big, soft eyes and that slightly dopey expression.  Or maybe it’s because they’re uniquely African: iconic may be a much over-used word, but in the giraffe’s case it’s certainly appropriate.  Yet for all that this gentle giant is  instantly recognisable and a favourite of safari-goers and zoo visitors alike, the giraffe has had a poor deal from scientists and conservationists, under studied and under protected.

It seems hard to credit that an animal with such a distinctive and unique physiology has been given so little attention, but finally that’s changing, and new and fascinating information about the giraffe’s natural history is being revealed. It’s not a moment too soon, for Africa’s giraffe population is in an alarming decline, and new research on genetics and taxonomy could be critical in targeting belated conservation efforts.

sg chapterIt’s a timely moment to publish a book about giraffes, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.  Our first ebook written and designed specifically for the Apple iPad, is now on sale – just click on this link, or visit the iBook store on your iPad and search for ‘giraffe’ .  It’s packed with lots of fascinating insights into the biology, social behaviour and conservation of these charismatic creatures, and illustrated throughout with our favourite images, which look great on the iPad’s screen. If you like it, please give us a review, if you don’t keep it to yourself!

sg pageSpecial thanks to leading giraffe conservation scientist Dr Julian Fennessy,  co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe & Okapi Specialist Group , who very kindly checked the text  and contributed  a foreword to the book.