As of the end of 2015, the IUCN provisionally listed the global population of Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as of Least Concern. However, this conservation status may not be the most accurate representation of the giraffe’s global population. Giraffe’s global populations are in flux: southern populations are increasing, and northern populations are decreasing.
Historically, giraffe occupied arid and dry-savanna zones of sub-Saharan Africa. Although historic accounts fail to distinguish between the various species and subspecies of giraffe, the giraffe’s range includes Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Giraffe are now extinct in Angola, Mali, and Nigeria; and locally extinct in Eritrea, Guinea, Mauritania, and Senegal.
The main causes of giraffe population decline are habitat degradation and poaching. Giraffe also face challenges from civil unrest, and human encroachment on their habitat. Since 1999, the giraffe’s global population has declined from about 140,000 animals to under 80,000 animals; more than 40% population decline in 15 years. If this declining population trend continues, it may warrant listing the giraffe under a high category of threat.
Giraffe are not currently protected under CITES.
Species and Subspecies
Scientist are currently collecting data and sequencing giraffe DNA to determine the various species and subspecies of giraffe. Currently, the IUCN has enough DNA evidence to recognize West African Giraffe as a distinct species, and Rothschildi Giraffe as a subspecies. More information about the various species and subspecies will be available as scientists continue their field studies and DNA sequencing. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is one of the scientific and conservation organizations collaborating with the IUCN’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group to determine the various giraffe species and subspecies. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation currently recognizes nine (9) species and subspecies of giraffe:
(Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis) A.K.A. Smokey giraffe
Angolan Giraffe are relatively light in color with large uneven, notched, spots covering their entire legs. Although Angolan Giraffe are now extinct in Angola, some pure and hybrid Angolan Giraffe may be found in Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Current Giraffe Conservation Force Population Estimate: less than 15,000 in the wild
(Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum)
Kordofan Giraffe have pale and irregular spots which cover their body and inner legs. Kordofan Giraffe come from areas with a lot of civil unrest: Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kordofan Giraffe are often confused with West African Giraffe; recent DNA studies have helped to clarify the confusion.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 2,000 in the wild
(Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis)
Nubian Giraffe has large (usually 4 sided) chestnut brown spots against slightly off-white background; it does not have any markings inside its legs or below its knees. Nubian Giraffe come from areas with a lot of civil unrest: Ethiopia and Sudan; due to the civil unrest, population estimates have been difficult to ascertain.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 650 in the wild
South African Giraffe
(Giraffa camelopardalis giraffe) A.K.A. Cape Giraffe
The South African Giraffe have blotchy, star-shaped spots against a cream or white background; thse spots extend all the way down their legs. South African Giraffe range in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. There are current efforts to re-introduce South African Giraffe into Mozambique; doing so will potentially create South-African / Angolan giraffe hybrids.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 17,000 in the wild
(Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)
A.K.A. Somali Giraffe, Netted Giraffe
The Reticulated Giraffe have brown-orange spots, clearly defined by a network of thick and often extremely white lines. It’s native range includes Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Reticulated Giraffe populations have been declining rapidly; in the 1990s, their estimated population was 28,000 individuals.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 8,000 in the wild
(Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi)
A.K.A. Baringo Giraffe, Ugandan Giraffe
The Rothschild’s Giraffe have large, dark rectangular spots or blotches irregularly set against a cream-colored background; it has white non-patterned legs. Rothschild Giraffe can be found in Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan. In 2011, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation successfully reintroduced Rothschild Giraffe into the area of Lake Baringo.
As of 2010, the IUCN listed Rothschild Giraffe as Endangered.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 1,500 in the wild
(Giraffa camelopardalis thornicrofti) A.K.A. Rhodesian Giraffe
The Thornicroft’s Giraffe have large dark, ragged leaf-shaped spots against a cream-colored background; this pattern continues down their legs. The only remaining population of less than 550 individuals is in Zambia.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 550 in the wild
(Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) A.K.A. Kilimanjaro Giraffe
The Masai Giraffe are the darkest of all giraffe species and subspecies with distinct, large, dark brown, vine-leaf shapped and jagged spots between creamy-brown irregular lines.
Current Giraffe Conservation Foundation Population Estimate: less than 37,000 in the wild
Large herbivores – like giraffe, rhinos, and elephants – play important roles in their habitats and landscapes. By eating a lot of foliage, these large herbivores open up areas and promote growth of new forage for itself and other animals. Giraffe disburse seeds and enhance the likelihood of acacia seed germination by pass the acacia seeds through their digestive tract. Giraffe also may aid in pollinating acacia trees.
Global Conservation Force has supported multiple Anti Poaching Units that oversee the protection of Giraffe and the Founder, Mike Veale, actively patrols with multiple APUs every year. GCF has partnered with the Institute for Conservation Research, David O’Connor, with a wild giraffe study and anti poaching project and has supplied APU gear and a drone to maximize the impact made. We will soon be pairing with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to support research and conservation of wild giraffe by donating necessary tools and equipment for anti poaching related tasks.
Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Giraffe – The Facts: Giraffe Subspecies. http://www.giraffeconservation.org/giraffe_facts.php?pgid=6
Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Giraffe – The Facts: Taxonomy, Evolution and Scientific Classification. http://www.giraffeconservation.org/giraffe_facts.php?pgid=51
Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Leni Martin, Ed. Africa’s Giraffe: A Conservation Guide. Black Eagle Media: 2013. Africas-Giraffe-A-conservation-guide.pdf http://www.giraffeconservation.org/booklets.php
Fennessy, J. & Brown, D. 2010. Giraffa camelopardalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T9194A12968471. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-2.RLTS.T9194A12968471.en
Fennessy, J. & Brown, D. 2008. Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. peralta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T136913A439726. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T136913A439726.en
Fennessy, J. & Brown, D. 2010. Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. rothschildi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T174469A7077893. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T174469A7077893.en