Nairobi, March 19 – A survey of giraffe in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy in the Masai Mara found a total of 539 different individuals in the conservancy during a 16-day count of the animals in January.

At least 300 of that number were found in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy at any given time. The conservancy is owned by the Maasai community, who have leased it to Gamewatchers Safaris that runs the Porini Camps in Masai Mara.

The research by Petra Campbell and Felix Patton, wildlife biologists with extensive experience in ecological monitoring of wildlife species in Africa, also shows that some of the giraffes move over a large area. The researchers set out to photograph every individual giraffe in Ol Kinyei Conservancy to build up a database of the giraffe population in the Mara identifying each giraffe. They had previously completed a similar exercise in Naboisho and Olarro Conservancies.

According to the two experts, giraffe populations are in serious decline across their former rangelands owing to habitat loss and poaching.

The Maasai giraffe (Giraffa tippelkirchi) was previously the most common, but numbers have declined by 50 per cent in the past 30 years and there are serious concerns that it is disappearing in some areas because of increased human settlement, farming and fencing that deprive the species of space of its habitat.

The conservancies adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve play a vital role in providing protected habitat where giraffes can survive.

“We make an early start at 7 am (it’s too dark to take good ID photos earlier than that) to catch those giraffe which move away before the main groups,” said Dr Patton . “Some of the going is tough having to weave between the many thorny Acacia drepanolobium so as not to scratch the car too badly while getting in position to take a right side photo before the giraffe turns away or runs off. Then back to camp to download all the photos, crop them on the computer to get a full length photo for the ID database and a body photo for the computerised identification system.”

With this year’s being the third giraffe survey carried out in the Masai Mara area, the individuals in Ol Kinyei were compared with the giraffe sighted in Naboisho and Olarro Conservancies and it was found, that 120 (27 males and 93 females) giraffe had originally been seen in Naboisho, while 40 (22 males and 18 females) were first seen in Olarro Conservancy.

Some eight giraffe (3 males and 5 females) had even travelled from Naboisho to Olarro and were now observed in Ol Kinyei.

Source: Gamewachers Safaris