Giraffe: a cross between a camel and a leopard?
Kenya is thought to be the epicenter of giraffe evolution since it is the only country in the world which is home to three subspecies; Rothschild, Reticulated and Maasai giraffe. It is understood that giraffe once roamed freely across the greater Rift Valley but decades of persecution, increased human settlement and accelerated habitat loss have had a major impact on their population. Experts originally believed a giraffe to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, an aspect that gave rise to its scientific name, Camelopardalis. Their beautiful coat pattern is like a human fingerprint or zebra stripe; each is unique and remains constant throughout the animal’s life.
During the 2009 devastating drought, giraffes within the Amboseli ecosystem were the only wildlife species whose population was largely unaffected. Requiring a massive 34 kilograms of food per day to fuel their large bodies, many giraffes spend most of their time foraging without worrying about the presence of nearby pastoralist. In the three Group Ranches that make up the Amboseli ecosystem, where most land is still communally owned, giraffes in their hundreds forage alongside Maasai livestock. Their number is commonly believed to be increasing and is not faced with any known threats. This is because to the Maasai, giraffes are harmless. They do not kill livestock nor compete with them. The various communal conservancies like Selenkay and Oldoinyo-wuas, which serves as focal concentration areas in the dry season, provide abundant water and food for different wildlife species, giraffe included. The open plains provide free mobility to seasonal migratory routes and even though it is important to understand their population trends in this ecosystem, I bet they have a healthy population.