Conservation Success Stories: OKC Zoo Reaches New Heights to Conserve Giraffes

Here at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, we believe in the importance of conserving the world’s wildlife and wild places. In 2020, the Zoo contributed over $220,000 to benefit local and global conservation efforts as part of its Round Up for Conservation initiative. Through individual guest contributions, Round Up for Conservation funds helped cultivate 10 conservation success stories in 2020. Of those, the Zoo has contributed funds to support giraffe conservation.

The Zoo is home to five giraffes – 20-year-old Ellie, Ellie's calf, born June 3, 2021; five-year-old Julu, three-year-old Demetri, and two-year-old Mashamba. The Zoo is also anticipating the arrival of Julu's giraffe calf due in the near future. 

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) is a science-based organization that works in 15 African countries to conserve giraffes. Conservation efforts for giraffes include placing GPS tracking devices on individual giraffes to monitor movements, translocating giraffes from areas with a large population into areas of suitable habitat with low or no giraffes, educating local communities, and collecting blood, hair and tissue samples for taxonomy and health studies.

Since the 1980s, the population of wild giraffes has fallen by 30% and only 10% of the giraffe’s historical range remains. Giraffe tails are highly prized by many African cultures and are used in good-luck bracelets, fly whisks and even thread for sewing or stringing beads. Giraffes are often poached for their meat and hide.

The Zoo has contributed to giraffe conservation for many years by supporting Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) in Kenya. In 2018, the Zoo became a Giraffe Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) partner organization and is a proud participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Giraffe Species Survival Plan. In 2020, funds from Round Up for Conservation were used to send the Zoo’s Curator of Hoofstock and Primates, Tracey Dolphin-Drees, and Senior Animal Caretaker, Lisbeth Pisias, to Namibia to assist GCF staff with giraffe research.

While in Namibia, Tracey and Lisbeth helped locate giraffes and collect behavioral data and biomaterial samples. The data collected was added to GCF’s large database and will be used to inform conservation efforts for the Namibian giraffe population.

Save the date! Monday, June 21 is Word Giraffe Day at the OKC Zoo. Join the Zoo and Bob Moore Subaru as we celebrate one of our planet’s most beloved, iconic animals – giraffes. Stay tuned to the Zoo’s Facebook for additional event details.

Wildlife and wild places are rapidly disappearing. The Zoo is working to save wildlife in Oklahoma and around the world. It’s our passion, and we need your help. By Rounding Up for Conservation, Zoo fans are able to support GCF. Buying Art Gone Wild or becoming a ZOOfriends member also helps to fund the Zoo’s local and global conservation efforts.

To find out more about the Zoo’s conservation efforts, click here.

- Dr. Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science

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