Giraffe population in the northwest on the rise

GPS satellite transmitters aim to prioritise well-being
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) manages a comprehensive giraffe conservation programme in Namibia, including the monitoring and supporting the long-term conservation of these animals living in the desert.
Claudia Reiter
"These giraffes are native to the northern Namib Desert in the northwest of the country and our programme area covers over 30 000 km²," the GCF said in a news release.
The area consists of community conservation land in the east and extends to the Skeleton Coast in the west, to the Kunene River bordering Angola in the north and to the Hoanib River in the south. This barren landscape of dunes, gravel and dry riverbeds is home to numerous wildlife species, including the desert-dwelling Angolan giraffe (Giraffa giraffa angolensis), a subspecies of the southern giraffe (G. giraffa).
"This is the longest-running giraffe monitoring and research programme in Africa and offers a unique and valuable opportunity to better understand these iconic animals and to learn invaluable lessons for the conservation and management of other giraffe populations across Africa. Analysis of our data has shown that bi-monthly observation trips are sufficient to collect important long-term population data.”
The positive news of the last few years is that the giraffe population in northwest Namibia has increased to 472 animals. "What is particularly interesting is that we keep coming across new adult giraffes during our surveys. We don't know exactly where they come from, but it seems as if they are migrating to the area from far away."
An additional challenge for the population at Hoanib is the recent arrival of a male lion that has continued the tradition of giraffe hunting by the local desert lions. "Within just two months, the new lion has hunted three giraffes. We expect this trend to continue, which is unfortunately part of natural selection and the way nature works," GCF said.
In an effort to use cutting-edge technology to better understand giraffe movements while prioritising their welfare, the foundation continues to work with partners to develop GPS satellite transmitters.
"Recently, our efforts have focused on small, lightweight ear tags that can be quickly applied and have minimal impact on the animals."
The GCF's Twiga Tracker initiative, the largest GPS satellite tracking study ever conducted on giraffes in the wild, continues to show greater movements, expanded habitats and increasing giraffe distribution.
"In the far north of Namibia, we see the largest migrations when food is very limited, so giraffes must travel great distances to survive - and to find mates."
"Analysis of our movement data indicates that the tagged giraffes have reduced their movement overall in the past year. As there has been relatively high rainfall in some parts of their range, this may be due to increased forage availability in many of the areas used by the giraffes. In addition, continuously flowing rivers following the good rains in early 2024 have restricted the giraffes' movements between river systems."