The Return of Giraffes to Angola

The Return of Giraffes to Angola

In a remarkable journey spanning 36 hours, the first native giraffes to be reintroduced to an Angolan national park made their return from Namibia. This event marks a significant milestone in the efforts to restore Angola’s wildlife, which suffered immensely during decades of conflict. The translocation of the fourteen giraffes, seven males, and seven females, to Iona national park signifies a glimmer of hope for Conservation in Angola and paves the way for future translocations.

The successful operation was a collaborative effort between African Parks, an NGO responsible for managing national parks in 12 countries, the Angolan government, and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF). Funding for the venture was generously provided by the GCF and the Wyss Foundation. Prior to their transportation, the giraffes, each standing at an impressive height of up to 11.5 feet, were fitted with solar-powered GPS satellite ear tags for post-translocation monitoring.

The Angolan giraffe subspecies, known as giraffa angolensis, was believed to have become extinct in the 1990s. The exact reasons for their disappearance from Angola remain unknown, but the civil war that plagued the country from 1975 onwards likely played a significant role.

Private landowners had previously initiated efforts to reintroduce giraffes to their farms and reserves, but the absence of these majestic creatures in national parks was a glaring gap in Angola’s wildlife restoration endeavors. Stephanie Fennessy, the executive director and co-founder of the GCF, emphasizes the significance of their return, stating that giraffes are vital for the restoration of the landscape due to their role as both landscape-changers and pollinators. By reclaiming their historical habitat, these amazing creatures will play a crucial part in revitalizing one of the world’s most incredible landscapes.

While the translocation itself was a complex and risky operation, the success of this endeavor has paved the way for future translocations and the establishment of a viable population of Angolan giraffes in Angola’s vast landscape. The young age of the giraffes means it will be some time before they reach breeding age, but long-term monitoring will gauge their adaptation and inform future Conservation efforts.

The revival of Iona national park carries profound significance for Angola. The park was severely impacted by the country’s four decades of civil war, resulting in significant declines in wildlife populations and the local extinction of rhinos and elephants. However, resilient species such as zebras, oryx, springboks, cheetahs, leopards, brown hyenas, and endemic reptiles managed to survive. The restoration of Iona’s natural heritage not only represents a symbolic revival of life but also holds the promise of driving local development through increased tourism, job creation, and poverty alleviation.

Iona national park, spanning an expansive 15,150 square kilometers, forms part of one of the largest trans-frontier Conservation areas in the world, along with the Skeleton Coast national park in Namibia and the Namibe Partial Reserve to the north.

As Angola’s government and local communities strive to breathe new life into the park, plans are underway to reintroduce other species such as black rhinos, lions, and key prey species. The reintroduction of elephants is also being considered, although it poses unique challenges due to their behavior. The ultimate vision is to witness a thriving ecosystem where all species perform their ecological functions.

The translocation of these Angolan giraffes serves as a beacon of hope for the Conservation of giraffe populations across Africa. In recent years, habitat loss, poaching, conflicts, and other human activities have led to a steep decline in giraffe numbers, leaving only approximately 117,000 remaining on the continent.

However, positive trends have been observed in southern Africa, including the Angolan giraffes. By reclaiming historical habitats and implementing translocation initiatives, there is a glimmer of hope for the long-term survival of this iconic species.

Sign this petition to protect giraffes through the African Wildlife Foundation.

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This article by Trinity Spake was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 11 July 2023. 

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