At the species level, giraffes are considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List; however, the population as a whole has dropped substantially in recent decades with less than 80,000 individuals remaining across Africa.
The subspecies of Kordofan giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum) numbers less than 2000 individuals across West Central Africa and have recently been assessed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. In addition to their diminishing population size, the Kordofan giraffe inhabits some of the most unstable regions in the world: southern Chad, the Central African Republic, northern Cameroon and northern Democratic Republic of Congo. Conservation of threatened species is difficult under the best of circumstances, but protecting species in areas with significant political and/or socio-economic challenges, or regions that lack enforced laws, is even more difficult.
The North Region of Cameroon is one of the last strongholds for the charismatic species of the Sudanian savanna woodland, including the Kordofan giraffe. In the heart of this area, the Western Bénoué Ecosystem (WBE) is composed of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Bénoué National Park) and four neighbouring hunting zones. Despite its rich biodiversity, the WBE is faced with several threats, the most critical of which is uncontrolled pastoralism by non-local herders. Overgrazing by cattle can negatively impact large herbivore populations by reducing food abundance.
Our project will address two key issues facing the conservation of the Kordofan giraffe: 1) a lack of knowledge on the current population size and distribution of this species, which is needed to inform effective conservation management; and 2) the problem of uncontrolled pastoralism inside protected areas. Unlike the densely-populated areas of Central Africa, the WBE is still largely covered by natural vegetation, which attracts large numbers of non-local cattle herders (predominantly Mbororo, a tribe from the Fulani ethnic group) during the dry season. They enter into direct competition with large herbivores, such as the giraffe, by cutting branches from high quality trees that are important components of their diet, such as Afzelia africana. As a consequence, herbivore populations are now small. This impacts the entire ecosystem as lack of wild prey for apex predators, such as lions and leopards, has led to their population decline, and may be the reason for the local extinction of African wild dog. The situation is not irreversible however, as long as quality habitat remains. Thus, we aim to preserve the habitat of northern Cameroon along with its rich and threatened wildlife, by targeting the threat of overgrazing through an increase in the efficiency of eco-guard patrols, thereby reducing the impact of cattle herders. We will be working in close cooperation with local communities, the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife, and Sekakoh, a Cameroonian NGO.
Conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society are pioneering a new approach to wildlife conservation with help from technology experts at the University of Bristol.
A team from the Society and the University have been using new techniques in machine-learning and drone technology to help track endangered giraffe. It is hoped that the technology could make a real difference to wildlife conservation projects worldwide.
On a recent trip to Cameroon, West Africa, a team from the Society and the University tested the drones, along with sensor technologies and deployment techniques to monitor populations of the Critically Endangered Kordofan giraffe at Bénoué National Park.
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