July 14th, 2017
Over many years scientists have always been curious about the activities of the giraffe in their natural environment. They have been asking many questions like: How far do the animals move? Where do the animals regularly go? What type of habitat do they depend on in different seasons? What are the biggest threats to their survival? What is the cause of the newly emerging disease, giraffe skin disease? How does it spread? How does the skin of an infected giraffe compare to that of a non-infected giraffe? And how might this disease interact with other threats, such as habitat loss, climate change and localized poaching?
Unlike all other animal species the giraffe’s ever-so-long necks, giraffes have historically not made for good candidates for GPS tracking. The challenge has been that when the GPS collar is placed on the neck of the Giraffe, it sits gently around the neck and slides right off when the Giraffe has bent over for a drink.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientists and partners are trying a new design. They have attempted to secure the GPS collars around the ossicones of the Giraffe; the horn-like structures atop their heads. Having been successful, they have already placed these new collars on 11 reticulated giraffes in Kenya.
Ultimately, the interdisciplinary work could help conservationists better understand why giraffes are in rapid decline and how best to save them from extinction, say David O’Connor, who works closely with SCBI’s Conservation Ecology Center in his role at the San Diego Zoo Global; and Suzan Murray, program director of the Smithsonian’s Global Health Program.