Giraffes are placed on the endangered list

Conservation at Melozhori becomes ever more important

Melozhori Game Reserve, conveniently situated along the Garden Route offers a unique Private Game Reserve Experience a mere 2 hours out of Cape Town. It is home to 19 large mammal species and 131 identified birds with an elegant thatched lodge that overlooks a breathtaking landscape for as far as the eye can see.

A quick game drive allows the visitor to see many of the mammal species that now roam the reserve. One of which is the very graceful giraffe. The World’s tallest land mammal might be facing extinction. Even though the South African giraffe is not in immediate danger, three of the nine giraffe subspecies are now listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ (Kordofan and Nubian giraffe) and ‘Endangered’ (Reticulated giraffe), while others range from ‘Vulnerable’ (Thornicroft’s and West African giraffe) to ‘Near Threatened’ (Rothschild’s giraffe). Since giraffes are widely overlooked when it comes to research and conservation efforts, the new classifications came as a surprise, even to some conservationists.

You might think a giraffe is a giraffe is a giraffe, but in fact, there are nine different kinds of giraffe on the African continent.

Those nine subspecies are:
  1. The Nubian Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
  2. The West African Giraffe (G. c. peralta)
  3. The Kordofan Giraffe (G. c. antiquorum)
  4. The South African Giraffe (G. c. giraffa)
  5. The Angolan (or Smoky) Giraffe (G. c. angolensis)
  6. The Masai (or Kilimanjaro) Giraffe (G. c. tippelskirchi)
  7. The Thornicroft’s (or Rhodesian) Giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti)
  8. The Rothschild’s (or Ugandan) Giraffe (G. c. rothschildi)
  9. The Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata

Other than being the tallest land mammal the giraffes have another special feature that makes them stand out above the rest. Giraffes use their 45-50 cm long prehensile tongue to feed on a range of plants that are usually quite high up. The colour of the tongue is best described as black, blue or purple and it is generally assumed that the tongue has such dark colouration, due to the density of dark ‘melanin’ colour pigments in them. It is thought that this protects the tongue while eating from getting sunburnt during frequent sun exposure.

The devastating reality though is that the giraffe population has decreased by 40% in the last three decades, this is mostly as a result of the loss of habitat and habit deterioration due to livestock activities, mining, deforestation and human population increase.

The farmland that is now Melozhori, was once heavily overgrazed, in a poor state as a result of long-term overstocking and stripped of vegetation cover. Surface soil was eroded, there were deep dongas and dense stands of invasive vegetation such as thistle, hakea, black wattle, pine, Port Jackson willow and kraalbos. The rehabilitation of the fragile renosterveld is a long-term project and forms a huge part of the Conservation efforts at Melozhori, which is evident in the success of the various species that we’ve introduced and now thrive at Melozhori.

The first giraffe calf born at Melozhori was on Christmas day in 2016. His name is “Isa” which means Jesus in Arabic. The youngest two calves at Melozhori are now 18 months old and we are expecting the next two calves to be born by the end of this year. We have been lucky in the sense that their calving interval is normally every three years, but our cows had their second calves after only two years. This means that they are doing well in our environment.