Updated geographic range maps for giraffe, Giraffa spp., throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and implications of changing distributions for conservation

David O'connor, Jenna Stacy-Dawes, Arthur Muneza, Julian Fennessy, Kathleen Gobush, Michael J. Chase, Michael B. Brown, Chloe Bracis, Paul Elkan, Abdoul Razazk Moussa Zaberirou, Thomas Rabeil, Dan Rubenstein, Matthew S. Becker, Samantha Phillips, Jared A. Stabach, Peter Leimgruber, Jenny A. Glikman, Kirstie Ruppert, Symon Masiaine, Thomas Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Giraffe populations have declined in abundance by almost 40% over the last three decades, and the geographic ranges of the species (previously believed to be one, now defined as four species) have been significantly reduced or altered. With substantial changes in land uses, loss of habitat, declining abundance, translocations, and data gaps, the existing geographic range maps for giraffe need to be updated. We performed a review of existing giraffe range data, including aerial and ground observations of giraffe, existing geographic range maps, and available literature. The information we collected was discussed with and validated by subject-matter experts. Our updates may serve to correct inaccuracies or omissions in the baseline map, or may reflect actual changes in the distribution of giraffe. Relative to the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Assessment range map, the updated geographic range maps show a 5.6% decline in the range area of all giraffe taxa combined. The ranges of Giraffa camelopardalis (northern giraffe) and Giraffa tippelskirchi (Masai giraffe) decreased in area by 37% (122432 km2) and 4.7% (20816 km2) respectively, whereas 14% (41696 km2) of the range of Giraffa reticulata (reticulated giraffe) had not been included in the original geographic range map and has now been added. The range of Giraffa giraffa (southern giraffe) showed little overall change; it increased by 0.1% (419 km2). Ranges were larger than previously reported in six of the 21 range countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe), had declined in seven (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia) and remained unchanged in seven (Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, and South Africa). In Kenya, the ranges of both Giraffa tippelskirchi and Giraffa camelopardalis decreased, but the range of Giraffa reticulata was larger than previously believed. Our updated range maps increase existing knowledge, and are important for conservation planning for giraffe. However, since rapid infrastructure development throughout much of Africa is a driver of giraffe population declines, there is an urgent need for a continent-wide, consistent and systematic giraffe survey to produce more accurate range maps, in order to inform conservation and policy planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-299
Number of pages15
JournalMammal Review
Volume49
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Keywords

  • Africa
  • aerial survey
  • decline
  • endangered
  • geographic range
  • giraffe
  • spatial ecology

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