The Nairobi National Park’s Impala Picnic Site was the venue for celebrating this years’ World Giraffe Day, June 21, presided over by the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Hon. Najib Balala.
Mr. Balala stated that, out of the approximately 100,000 giraffes in the wild, roughly 29,000 are in Kenya. He added that of the four giraffe species in the world, Kenya is host to three: Masai Giraffe, Northern Giraffe and Reticulated Giraffe.
The CS said that the celebration was a fitting follow-up to the Giraffe Recovery and Action Plan launched in 2018. “Last year, during CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) held in Switzerland, Kenya’s proposal to upgrade the giraffe to Appendix II was successful,” he said.
An Appendix II listing includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but for which trade must be controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
Balala appreciated the recent surge in visitor numbers to NNP, occasioned by restriction of movement enforced by the Ministry of Health to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. As such, KWS has invested heavily in improving the overall visitor experience to NNP, such as seamless entry procedures, quality infrastructure and conservation of the biodiversity. He congratulated KWS Director General and his team of experts for going public with a revised Nairobi National Park Management Plan, which has incorporated the public’s views, pledging the ministry’s full support in this endeavour.
The Principal Secretary in the State Department of Wildlife, Prof Fred Seghor, said that the giraffe’s significance lies in its evolutionary uniqueness. He admired its skin, which emits a characteristic smell that acts as a natural insect repellent, in addition to being a thermal regulator for the giraffe. These unique characteristics need to be preserved, starting with the urgent need to reverse the current decline seen in giraffe populations.
The PS said the onus is upon the conservation fraternity and other stakeholders to preserve giraffe’s habitats to accommodate its unique position as a habitat and landscape changer (giraffe browsing stimulates shoot production in various plant species, and often functions as a valuable pollinator). He stressed on continuous research to monitor the giraffe populations.
KWS Director General, Brig. (Rtd.) John Waweru said that the giraffe deserves to be celebrated even as the world grapples with the far-reaching challenges wrought by the ongoing Covid19 pandemic.
He assured the gathering that KWS strictly observes all recommended protocols and takes all precautionary measures laid down by the Ministry of Health very seriously, explaining that all in attendance were safe.
Brig. (Rtd.) Waweru said that the inaugural World Giraffe Day was in 2014, a day set aside to celebrate this amazing animal, as well as to raise support and create awareness of the challenges faced by giraffes in the wild.
The DG explained that NNP plays host to approximately 112 giraffes, and this iconic species attracts myriad tourists to the park. The giraffe migrates from NNP to the surrounding Athi-Kapiti plains within the Kitengela Triangle and back.
He averred that when it comes to conservation, giraffe compete with more charismatic species such as elephant and lion, particularly for funding. It is estimated that the current giraffe population is a quarter of the African elephants. He was emphatic in saying that 30% population decline over the past three decades needs to be urgently reversed.
“Kenya’s commitment to using the best scientific management practices to realize maximum protection and conservation of giraffe cannot be gainsaid. It is in cognizance of this that the country developed a National Recovery and Action Plan for Giraffe, which was launched in 2018, at this same venue,” he said.
Brig (RTD) Waweru appealed to all wildlife conservation organizations to collaborate to guarantee the well-being of the giraffe. He also advocated for a multi-sectoral approach by all security agencies to subvert poaching of this species, lamenting the recent upsurge in bush meat poaching.
Other dignitaries who graced the occasion included the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Joseph Boinnet, acting Chair, KWS Board of Trustees, Betty Maitoyo, other Board members. The Head of KWS Airwing, Michael Nicholson, flew a brand-new gyrocopter (one of several new gyrocopters acquired by KWS) above the venue.