To celebrate World Giraffe Day this 21st June, we thought we’d take a look at a very special subspecies of the Giraffidae family – the Kordofan giraffe.
Currently there are nine recognised subspecies of giraffe living in geographically distinct areas across Africa. However, there is increasing evidence to suggest that this may not be correct, and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) is leading a long-term effort to get to the bottom of giraffe genetics.
The Kordofan giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum) is a subspecies whose native range includes southern Chad, the Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, the northern Democratic Republic of Congo and probably South Sudan. It is estimated that there are less than 2,000 individuals surviving across these countries.
Garamba National Park in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo borders South Sudan and contains the last remaining population of Kordofan giraffe in the DRC. As a result of poaching, the number of Kordofan giraffe have declined in the park. African Parks has, therefore, recently enlisted the help of the GCF to secure a sustainable future for them.
Meanwhile, due to the availability of water throughout the year in the east of the park, Zakouma National Park in south-eastern Chad is a sanctuary for biodiversity that, according to GCF, not only provides a refuge for the main surviving Kordofan giraffe population in the country but also comprises around half of the African population of this subspecies. During an aerial count last year, 934 giraffe were recorded, most of which were in the eastern half of the park.
So what makes this subspecies stand out?
Spot the spots. Compared to other subspecies, the Kordofan giraffe has relatively small, pale and irregular spots.
They are never in hock. Their markings cover their inner legs but don’t go below the hocks.
They’re misunderstood. Most of the Kordofan populations were formerly classifed as West African giraffe (G. c. peralta), but recent research has proved that they’re actually in a class of their own. Genetic studies in 2007 resulted in giraffe from zoos across Europe being reclassified as Kordofan (G. c. antiquorum).
Its name survived a civil war. Due to conflict in Sudan, little wildlife data has been collected between 1983 and 2005. However, this subspecies’ name serves as a reminder of a time of abundance past. Named after a former province in Sudan, a researcher suggested in 1931 that Kordofan giraffes were common throughout the Sudan as far as Northern Darfur. Sadly, according to later research, the country’s population was scarce by the 1970s.
In spite of the Kordofan giraffe population being eliminated from substantial parts of its former range due to poaching and drought, thanks to improved management under African Parks, numbers are increasing and the future for the species is starting to look positive. If it can survive a case of mistaken identity and outlive its own namesake, there’s hope for this special subspecies yet.