Facts about the reticulated Giraffes.

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The Somali Giraffe (photo courtesy of federicco vernossei)  or Reticulated Giraffe , Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata , is a subspecies of giraffe native to Somalia and Northeastern kenya. Reticulated giraffe can interbreed with other giraffe subspecies in captivity or if populations are low in the wild.

The reticualted giraffe is the most well-known of the nine giraffe subspecies, and has large, polygonal liver-colored spots outlined by a network of bright white lines. The blocks may sometimes appear deep red and may also cover the legs. The giraffe s are  native north-eastern Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The extraordinary height of giraffe s allows them to browse on branches of trees that other hoofed animals can’t reach. This has helped make them one of the most successful animals of the African savannah. Giraffe s are also fast, able to gallop up to 56 km/h (35 mph). Mothers aggressively defend their calves, kicking out with their feet at the approach of lion s or hyena s.

The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world. Males reach a towering 19 feet tall and weigh between 2400 and 4250 pounds. Females measure up to 17 feet tall and weigh between 1540 and 2600 pounds. A lot of this height and weight is because of the giraffe??? incredibly long neck, which can be 8 feet in length and can weigh almost 500 pounds. Even though the giraffe??? neck is taller than most humans are, it is still made of only 7 bones. This is the same number of bones that are in the human neck. On the top of their heads, giraffes have horns made of solid bone and covered with skin. These are used for sparring between males. The giraffe is also known for its spots. In fact, the Romans called the giraffe “camelopardalis,” meaning “camel marked like a leopard.” These spots are unique to each giraffe, much like fingerprints are unique to each human. In fact, people who study many giraffes can distinguish between the different giraffes just by looking at their spots. Another unique feature of the giraffe is its unusually long tongue. This pink and black tongue can be 22 inches long and is used to grab food from the trees.

The giraffe feeds mainly on Acacia and Combretum trees, but will eat as many as 100 different plants depending on which are available at the time. Since giraffes have such long necks, they can reach a 6-foot band of foliage that is above the reach of all other animals except the elephant. The giraffe will use its upper lip and long tongue to strip the leaves, shoots, flowers and vines from the trees. It needs 75 pounds per day of vegetation. However, it only drinks water every 2 to 3 days when it is available and can go for weeks without drinking any. The giraffe gets a large amount of water from the dew on the leaves and from the water in the leaves. When it encounters a watering hole, it will drink up to 12 gallons of water at one time. Giraffes have four stomachs just like cows.

Giraffes are native to only Africa. They used to be found throughout the dry savanna zones south of the Sahara Desert, but today have been eliminated from most of West African and southern Kalahari range. However, they are still fairly common.

Adult giraffes are too big to fall prey to the predators of Africa. However, the young giraffes are hunted by lions, hyena, leopards, and African wild dogs. A mother will stand over her calf to protect against the lions, which run the risk of getting killed by a kick from the mother’s powerful legs. Even with this protection, 50 to 75 percent of all calves are killed during the first few months. For the survivors, the life expectancy is 20 to 25 years.

The giraffe herd is not as rigidly structured as that of other animals. At any given time, the herd may consist of all males, all females, a mix of females and young, or a mix of all. Unlike most herds, the giraffe herd of 20 animals has no leader. Because of their large size, it is not necessary for the giraffes to stay in a tight group. In addition, they are tall enough to be able to see each other at long distances. The result is a herd that may be spread out over half a mile. Males spar in daily contests to determine mating rights, using their horns and strong necks to deliver heavy blows to each other. By the time that a female is ready to mate, the dominant male has already beaten all the other males in these contests. Once rank has been determined, the giraffes usually live peacefully alongside each other.

Giraffes breed throughout the year, but most often after the rainy season. After a gestation period of about 14 to 15 months, a 6-foot tall baby giraffe, called a calf, is born. For the first 2 weeks, the mother guards her young, who spends most of the time lying down. If there are a lot of calves in the herd, one female may take care of all of them until they get older.

Giraffes have very keen eyesight, allowing them to keep other members of the herd in sight. They also have good hearing and sense of smell. Giraffes have scent glands that give off a pungent odor. Many believe that the giraffe is mute, but this is only a myth. Though they are normally silent, they can grunt, snort, growl, sneeze, snore, moo, bleat, and cough

Another giraffe dies of road accident

dsc00579-2.JPGDear freinds I am saddned to share that we lost another male giraffe to over speeding track driver along Garissa Ijara road which directly passes through the sanctaury. The un identified motorist knocked down the giraffe and never stopped to see what happend. The scouts have confirmed that it was a long vehicle that vanished immediately after the incident. I woud like to thank MR. Mohamed ahmed of Wildlife Clubs of kenya for facilitating our scouts to carry out patrols in the sanctuary and for reporting this particular incident. It is sad for us and we may need to put warning signs announcing the presence of giraffes along the road.

Birds in the midst of pastoralists

sanctuary.jpgbour-algy-29-06-06_3507.jpgThe sanctuary is not only famous for the beautiful reticulated giraffes but also offers wide range of other sceniic sites that could excite bird watchers. A survey earlier carried out in the sanctaury recorded over 200 species of birds in the sanctuary. However the current estimate is much higher than this. Schools in the districts are the only formal groups that do bird watching exercises in the sanctuary. Our dedicted warden Mr. Hassan affey is however, currently carrying out eduction programmes to popularise  bird watching as lesiure activity for the pastoralist in the area.

The Sanctuary at a glance.

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Dear readers, I would like to take  this opportunity to thanks all our donors and supporters for this initiative.  This picture above is me for those we have not met and in this particular post I would like to share quick background of the sanctuary. The  Garissa Community Giraffe sanctuary (GCGS) falls within an immediate sub urban environment of Garissa Town. The local community consists of the Bur algi community of a predominately pastoral Somali clan and the Malakoti who are hunter gatherers settled along the Tana River. Over the years the settlements have expanded into more permanent settlements while the local Malakotis along the river have opted to selling their traditional lands to Somali farmers involved in irrigation agriculture.

 The key human settlements (i.e. nomadic, semi – permanent and permanent) include; Annam, Qabobey, Bula wanawake, Jarirot, Hanjoley, Bur Algi, Bula Sheikahmed among others .The livelihood activities for these communities include hunting, charcoal burning, livestock rearing & trade, Quarrying/ Sand harvesting, fuel wood sales , building poles harvesting, Poaching among others.

Wildlife & Habitat diversity

The area is a brachystalgia acacia woodland with scattered bushes/thickets. There is a key habitat for the Reticulated Giraffe (estimated at 144, adults-107 and 37 young). Other Wildlife species include; Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, Cheetah, Hippotamus, Guinea fowls & other birds, Grevys Zebra, Common Zebra, Warthog  (declining population due poaching), Ostrich Somali race, Hyeana, Lions among others. Details of this information is available in this link. http://www.terranuova.org/articoli/transboundary-environmental-project or  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bour-Algi_Giraffe_Sanctuary

Current situation

Currently in this unique wildlife habitat yet a potential ecotourism hotspot,  has not yet gotten the necessary attention to conserve the existing wildlife and habitat diversity from both the government and other organisations. There is no development plan in place to direct settlement and safe guard the existing ecological diversity. The  sanctuary area is a trust land held in trust for the local community by the Garissa County Council (GCC) as provided by Cap 208 of the laws of Kenya.

Several efforts have been made before by the Terra Nuova, an Italian NGO for cooperation and development  in collaboration with local CBOs and other partners, in environmental education campaigns and active ecological data gathering & monitoring to create awareness among stakeholders and local community on the threats to existing rich wildlife and habitat diversity. However, the fact that the conservation area is not actively protected there is evidence of severs habitat encroachment and Poaching in the area. Most evident are; Charcoal burning targeting the acacia trees, over grazing, blockage of access routes for wildlife and livestock to watering points ‘Malkas’ by farming community, increasing human settlement in the area and  wood and fuel wood harvesting. Also key catchments areas are under threat from uncontrolled grazing and human settlement. The area is dissected by the main road from Garissa to ijara but lacks developed tourism support infrastructure neither does it fall within an established tourism circuit. Albeit, the area is occasionally frequented by the curious tourists, no levys are charged neither do local communities benefit from such visits. It is on this basis that i would like to appeal to agencies to come and help in securing place for the giraffes in the midst of pastoral communities.

Garissa Town

field-pic-006.JPGDear our readers.

I was requested by one our readers to have an idea of what Garissa might look like.  Here it is, located almost 380 kilometers north east of Nairobi  with an estimated popualtion of 200,000 people in the main town. it is fast developing area with multiculatural society, but  mainly inhabited by pastoral Somalis. The mean daily temperature rangers from 29-35 degeress centigardes and it is actually quite hot  and dusty for visitors. The sanctuary is located only 3 kilometers from the main town and one can easily visit while in Garissa. Accomodation is relatively good as one can stay in Nomad resort, Hidig hotel or almond resort all within the town. Y ou are all welcome.

Thank you AFEW Giraffe Center

Today Paula collected my check for Ksh 60,000 (about $1,000) which was given to me by the AFEW (African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) Giraffe Center in Langata, Nairobi. The funds are to help pay the costs of our community scouts as well as some legal costs.

This post is to thank AFEW for believing in the Garissa Giraffe Sanctuary.

Here are some of the tenants of the Giraffe Center

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The newest baby – only one year old already 10 feet tall!

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Daisy 2 – at a strange angle

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She is massive, 17 years old, her head is always in the sky!

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This is one of the few places in Kenya where you can meet the animals close up. Based right on the edge of Nairobi the giraffe are free to come and go as they please! They attract hundreds of thousands of people each year, especially children – school kids go free and have the use of a wonderful education center.

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Kenyans love giraffes which are the subject of wooden and metal art works

Lions on the rampage

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Imagine challenging a lion physically: Look at this picture of how a lion has damaged the thigh ( deep cut) of this man. Garissa and Wajir districts in Kenya have become a battle zone in the recent past between marauding lions and helpless pastoralist. Early this year , nine family members have been seriously injured in Biyamadow in Wajir. They attained serious injuries ranging from severe skull damage, deep cuts to skin scratches as shown by the above picture which i took in Garissa general hospital. This particular man  who have been at the hospital for a week  told me that they had to fight the rogue lions for almost four hours in broad day light just to rescue one of their goats.  According to the victims, lion’s attacks have been on the increase mainly due to prolonged droughts, trade on lions cubs and perhaps due to reduced water sources. Other similar incidents have been reported in Liboi, Modogashe, Bananey and Damajalley in the two districts.

Finally we got the computer

Greeting to all the friends of the giraffe sanctuary. I am glad to inform you that we finally  purchased the computer which we seriously needed for our work. I would like to say thank you for all those who contributed towards this machine that will help save many giraffes in the arids areas of kenya.

Farms of Garissa

bour-algy-01-07-06_3694.jpgThis is just to give Theresia an idea of what kind of crops are grown in our area. The farms are mainly along the Tana River which is the only source of permanent water. NO major large scale farming are carried out here but small irrigation based cultivations( an example is the sweet melons farm shown in the picture above). Many fruits do well here. Some of the major ones include Mangoes, tomatoes, melons, pawpaw,quavas, bananas, orages. Other common crops include maize and canes.

Ostrich farming is another conservation option in NEP

meru-aerial-survey-024.jpgOstriches are abundunt in this dry part of kenya, North Eastern province(NEP) with mainly the somali Ostich race. They are present in almost all the districts but little effort has been directed to its commercial exploitation as an alterntive to pastoralism. Local communities here attach alot of Nutritutional and medicinal value to ostrich meat and its products. I have come a cross many isolated ostrich populations in the region which can become perfect ostrich farms.