The Rothschild's giraffe or Ugandan Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) is one of the giraffe species categorized by IUCN as endangered, with an estimated population of less than 2,500 mature individuals; no one sub-population contains more than 250 mature individuals (IUCN,2010). Murchison Falls National Park is the native range of the Rothschild's giraffe and hosts an estimated 700 individuals (Uganda Wildlife Authority Census Report, 2012) that make up 75% of the total world's population of these mega fauna species.
Giraffes are mainly threatened by poaching, disease, habitat loss and human encroachment and these threats have led to a reduction of giraffe populations in Africa. UWA have noticed strange patches of light skin on the Rothschild's giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park.
Having noticed the skin disease, UWA contacted UCF for help in identifying what was causing loss of hair on the giraffe skins. UCF has taken up the challenge with support from the Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund aiming to identify the causes, proportion of giraffes affected, and solutions.
In December 2014, UWA darted 3 giraffes (1 Adult Female, 1 Adult Male, and 1 Sub adult Male). In each of the giraffes 4 triplicate sets of samples were obtained. The samples collected were: skin scrapings from the lesions, whole blood, serum and faecal samples. Also during observation of the sick giraffes, 11 fresh faecal samples were collected.
At the start of April 2014, UCF and UWA were in Murchison Falls National Park to carry out phase two of the investigation, taking samples from a further 7 giraffe. The table below gives details of samples taken. This activity also coincided with a visit of the ex-BBC journalist Verity White who filmed all the blood sample collection activities. Verity also interviewed UWA research team and the vets. The vets shared the plight of the giraffes and challenges faced by the department.
Table showing animal types and samples types collected in April in Murchison Falls National Park.
The first and second set of samples will be analysed by our partners in the United States of America. This is expected to come up with solutions to the problem. UCF will then submit to SWBGCF final findings from the research.
Little information is available about the elephant population of southern Murchison and for better elephant conservation and park management it is vital that this gap is filled.
Collecting information and photography is critical to building up a picture of the spatial and temporal use of the region by elephants so UCF, with support from US Fish Wildlife Service, International Elephant Foundation and Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has embarked on a project to collect data. UCF is facilitating UWA rangers to collect data on age structures, group sizes and taking pictures of key senior elephants.