Gearing Up for Giraffe Collaring

After over a year delay, its nearly time to return to Kenya with partners from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, San Diego Zoo Global, and Kenya Wildlife Service to fit 25-30 reticulated giraffe with solar powered GPS transmitters. We’ll be working across the Laikipia Plateau to increase our sample size from n = 11 individuals and provide a better understanding of the space use and movements of these endangered animals.  Along our way, we will be accompanied by Ed Yong, author of “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” and journalist at The Atlantic, to increase awareness of the plight of giraffes and the complexities to conserving them.  Should be an exciting two weeks.

Very much looking forward to moving this initiative forward and hopeful to have many pictures to share.

A TOWER of giraffe!  No, for real, that’s the proper term for a group of giraffes.

Counting large mammals from drones

Ever wonder what a bison looks like from 100 meters altitude?  This image was taken from a DJI drone during field activities at the American Prairie Reserve in Montana last month, part of ongoing efforts to develop automatic tools to accurately count large mammals.  Beyond a total count, we’re also interested in quantifying the total number of calves, juveniles, and adults in each image, something that is extremely useful to monitor population growth.  If you look closely, you can see the calves, which have an orange tint, are smaller than the other animals in the image, and often found next to their mothers.  Much harder is differentiating sex in the juveniles.  Some of the large males, however, are relatively easy to identify and there are a few big boys in the image.  One of these large males can be seen “wallowing” near the center of the image, a characteristic of bison and how they re-shape the ecosystem, providing improved habitat for a variety of other species.

I count 46 individuals in this image, inclusive of 6 calves.  We’ll see if the computer agrees!

Image collected from a DJI Mavic Pro 2 at 100 meters across the Sun Prairie management unit in the American Prairie Reserve, Montana.

Geographic range of giraffe updated

Congratulations to David O’Connor and colleagues for their recent publication in Mammal Review which updates the known distribution of giraffe species across the African continent.  Lot’s of changes due to improved data that will ultimately help to inform and target conservation efforts.  Looking forward to next steps with San Diego Zoo Global and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation as we gear up to collar 25 reticulated giraffe across the northern rangelands in Kenya.

Updated geographic range maps for giraffe in sub‐Saharan Africa. Ranges are shown as filled coloured polygons for each species. The dashed outlines show the previously recognised IUCN range for each taxon (Giraffe Conservation Foundation 2016, Muller et al. 2018). The cross‐hatched areas are where giraffe populations are not confirmed, but possibly do occur. Figure from O’Connor et al. 2019.