Long-legged lifeline

The rarest subspecies in the world, the West African giraffe, is under pressure. The Born Free Foundation is helping to protect them…

GiraffesNiger is home to  West Africa’s last known viable population of the Niger or West African giraffe, the rarest subspecies in the world. Some 350 individuals live in an 840 sq km area to the left of the Niger River, close to capital city Niamey. In the rainy season the giraffes live in arid scrubland known as ‘tiger bush’, while in the dry season they move to valleys with acacia trees.

Although the giraffes are well adapted to a dry climate and sparse vegetation, loss of habitat is a major problem. Their environment is becoming increasingly dry – due to global climate change and pressure from humans, through the harvesting of wood for fuel, increased agriculture and grazing livestock such as goats and cattle.

The giraffes inhabit an area known as the Sahel region, a belt spanning 5400km across Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. This region is the ‘transition zone’ between the Sahara desert and Sudanian savannah. The Niger giraffe is essential to protecting the Sahel area from the spread of the desert, since they spread acacia seeds through their dung.

The giraffes live close to local communities and villages where people are tolerant of their lofty neighbours and try to live harmoniously. However, the giraffes are increasingly migrating in search of food. This can lead to conflict with people unused to their presence, and even poaching. International wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation is helping the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the Government of Niger and the IUCN-SSC Giraffe & Okapi Specialist Group to protect the giraffes. This includes monitoring their behaviour, creating a conservation ‘action plan’, protecting their habitat, and education projects with local people.

Did you know?
• At up to 5.5m tall, giraffes are the tallest animals on earth. But their 2m neck only has 7 vertebrae (neck bones), the same number as other mammals.
• To get blood to their brain, their heart beats 170 times a minute, twice as fast as a human’s.
• Their giant size and 45cm tongue helps them reach leaves on treetops.
• One giraffe eats 63kg of leaves a day.
• Giraffes might look fragile but are strong (one kick could kill a lion) and fast (up to 30mph).
• Giraffes are always on the lookout for predators, live in groups and sleep for only 1½ hours at a time.
• Africa has nine subspecies of giraffe, each with distinctive markings and colouring.
• Giraffes’ patchy coats provide camouflage when feeding amongst trees.

Please help KQ & the Born Free Foundation to safeguard Africa’s wildlife by placing any loose change in the envelopes provided and handing to a member of the cabin crew. The money received will help us in our fight to ensure a future for Africa’s wildlife. Thank you! www.bornfree.org.uk/about-us/born-free-kenya/