World Giraffe Day, Gulf Breeze Zoo Sticks It's Neck Out for Giraffe
It's no tall tale, Reticulated giraffe have been classified as Endangered.
Gulf Breeze Zoo works with zoos across the world to give voice to the silent extinction of Giraffe. This beloved giant is well equipped to handle lions and hyenas but comes up shorthanded when faced with habitat loss and poaching. It's estimated that over 30% of wild giraffe populations have been lost since the 1990s with minimal commentary.
Giraffe populations struggle due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and poaching. Illegal hunting in Tanzania has impacted Giraffe populations due to a misinformed new belief that giraffe brain and bone marrow can cure HIV-AIDS. In the Congo, poachers are interested in a different body part: the tail. The unusual hunt is motivated by local tradition when the tail is used as a marriage dowry to the bride's father. Demand for Giraffe tail is also fueled by tourists who may be unknowingly purchasing souvenirs made out of the long black hairs. Giraffe tail is used to make trinkets such as good-luck bracelets, fly whisks, and thread for sewing or stringing beads. Most of these products originate from South Africa where Giraffe products can be sold legally.
It's no wonder saving giraffes seems like such a daunting task. Giraffe currently occur in 21 African countries facing different threats that need a wide range of conservation approaches to secure their future. Luckily, the Gulf Breeze Zoo is willing to stick it's neck out for giraffe.
This summer the Zoo hosted a fundraising campaign for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation's (GCF) project known as the "Twiga Tracker." Twiga is Swahili for Giraffe. The Twiga Tracker project is the largest Giraffe GPS satellite tracking program ever conducted in Africa, with a goal to track a minimum of 250 wild Giraffe to better understand their behavior and the challenges they're facing. Each specialized tracking unit costs $2,500 and the cost to deploy these units in the field is estimated at an additional $5,000.
In an effort to save giraffe, Gulf Breeze Zoo hosted behind the scenes tours to meet the herd up close and personal. Guests learned about husbandry care for captive animals, as well as the conservation issues facing wild populations. Tours provided a behind the scenes look at the giraffe complex and a one-on-one close-up feeding experience with the resident giraffe herd. The event was successful with nearly 100 behind the scenes giraffe encounters conducted. A total of $5,000 was raised for the conservation program.
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is excited to partner with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help with their continued success. "Our animal ambassadors play an important role in giving a voice to their wild counterparts by raising awareness and offering financial support" say Katy Massey, Conservation Coordinator. "The issues facing wild giraffe are intimidating, yet it is important to keep in mind that, while there is life, there is hope. We will continue to support one another in this fight to save this gentle giant, the giraffe."