Tag Archives: murchison falls

World Giraffe Day – how do you move a giraffe? Q&A with Dr Sara Ferguson from Giraffe Conservation Foundation

This is a the second part of our blog celebrating World Giraffe Day.

World Giraffe Day is an exciting annual event initiated by Giraffe Conservation Foundation to celebrate the longest-necked animal on the longest day or night (depending on which hemisphere you live!) of the year – 21 June.

Not only is it a worldwide celebration of these amazing and much-loved animals, but an annual event to raise support, create awareness and shed light on the challenges giraffe face in the wild.

Here we focus specifically on one of the projects being supported by Explorers against Extinction 2019 – the translocation of critically endangered Nubian Giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe in Uganda this autumn. You can find out more about this project here.

shutterstock_112144487Travelling to Uganda  is one way to support conservation efforts in the country. We are delighted to also partner with Tourism Uganda this year and to highlight some of the amazing experiences Uganda offers, from visiting Murchison Falls (pictured) to trekking to see endangered mountain gorillas. Find out more about travelling to Uganda here.



Q&A with Dr Sara Ferguson, Conservation Researcher, Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).

Dr Ferguson is heading up the Nubian Giraffe Translocation from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe in Uganda this autumn. The translocation is a joint GCF / Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) operation.

  • How many Nubian giraffe are being moved?

Approximately 15 but ultimate decision on number will be decided by UWA as will the ratio of males/females to be moved.

  • How are these selected?

We look for a specific size and age – mainly smaller subadults, between the ages of 2-4. Smaller individuals are easier to immobilise and move, and young enough to be weaned from the dam (female) but not yet at sexual maturity.  Avoid any pregnant females is the goal. Individuals are usually selected during the translocation process. We go out with the UWA team and scan herds for individuals who would be suitable and make the choice out in the field.

  • Can you give us a broad summary of the key stages of the translocation process? Nubian MF

1.Identifying appropriate translocation environment/destination (includes habitat assessment; park/reserve analysis; looks at historical or current presence of giraffe; threat assessment; community awareness and sensitization, etc.)

boma22.Government approval of translocation

3.Route determination (road conditions, obstacles, duration)

4.Boma construction (corral to hold giraffe pre and post translocation)

5.Location determination and logistics (when is the best season to move the giraffe; how many individuals, what age/sex)

truck-in-landscape6.Logistical planning (transport truck assessment; chariot assessment; team organization; resource allocation and necessity).




  • Can you outline the translocation process for us including capture and release? 

We will plan on darting at least two giraffe on the same day to move to the boma (likely three or four if we can manage).  Giraffe are social animals and will stress if left alone in the boma for an extended period of time.

We usually begin in the early morning when it is cool (around 7 am), drive to an area with giraffe (we scout this out the day before to identify some herds with good potential).

Once an individual is selected, it will be immobilised via a CO2 powered dart gun with etorphine HCl (M99), the drug usually takes about 3-6 minutes to take effect, then the ground team moves in to rope the darted giraffe and assist to the ground (this is quite an exciting process and it aids in reduction of injury to the giraffe).

The giraffe is then immediately reversed with the antidote naltraxone as a blindfold and ear plugs are placed and the giraffe is restrained with manpower on the neck and body.  All giraffe also receive prophylactic antibiotic and antiinflammatory injections to reduce the impact of immobilisations.

Ropes are placed to help guide the giraffe once up into the transport chariot which is pulled by a tractor. Once the giraffe is on the transport chariot, the guiding ropes are removed and  it is brought to the boma, the blindfold and ear plugs are removed and the giraffe is released into the boma where ample water and fresh browse are available.

Then the process is quickly repeated to have a companion as quickly as possible. Once there are at least two giraffe in the boma, we do not need to rush to get more giraffe so depending on temperature (if it is too hot) we may or may not continue that day.

Over the next few days we collect more individuals and add them to the boma (usually aiming to get 5 animals, maybe 10). There is always a rest day for the team and the giraffe to allow them to adjust to the boma and transport truck (situated where the giraffe can access it while in the boma).Chariot

5 individuals are loaded up onto the transport truck and driven to their new destination (Pian Upe is approximately a10-12 hour drive away from Murchison Falls).

There will be another boma at the reserve where the giraffe will be placed overnight to allow them to get a good drink of water, food, and recover from the drive. UWA will determine how long they would like the giraffe to remain in the boma prior to release into Pian Upe.

Then the process is repeated until we have the entire herd transported. UWA rangers will then monitor the giraffe closely, making sure they do not immediately try to leave the reserve and adjust well.

How many staff are involved?

A huge team from UWA and a moderate team from GCF — unsure on the actual number of individuals but usually enough to have two grounds teams (6-10 rangers each), three to four veterinarians, two drivers, 3-6 researches gathering biological data…

It is a huge process!

What does the project cost?

We estimate the whole operation to cost just over $100,000 USD. Each giraffe costs approximately $6, 700 to move.



There are many ways to show your support – come along to one of our autumn exhibitions and events, shop at the Real World Store, buy a ticket for our ‘Win a Safari’ raffle or simply make a donation here – find out more here.





Giraffe – the gentle giants facing an uncertain future

With their long eyelashes and graceful gait, giraffe are an iconic symbol of Africa. It is impossible to imagine an African
landscape without them.

However in recent years giraffe have seen a decline in numbers. Two sub species, Nubian and Kordofan, are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.

In 2018 our conservation campaign Explorers against Extinction supported a project in Garamba National Park, DRC.  Garamba is home to one of these giraffe sub species – the Kordofan giraffe. The working dogs programme we assisted African Parks to establish in Garamba is helping the rangers to protect not only elephant but also the Kordofan giraffe.

This year we are partnering with Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF),  the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe. Our aim is to raise awareness about the plight of giraffe while also directly contributing to the conservation of the Nubian giraffe.

We want to cover the cost of moving a pair of Nubian Giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe, Uganda. This pair will be part of a group of 15 or so giraffe making the move from Murchison Falls. It is hoped  the group will go on to establish a viable, free-ranging population. Find out more about this project here.

WGDIn the first of a two-part blog celebrating World Giraffe Day on Friday 21 June, we take a closer look at the different species and the threats facing them.


In the 1980s, the total number of giraffe in Africa was estimated at more than 155,000 individuals.

Today, GCF estimates the current Africa-wide giraffe population at approximately 111,000 individuals.

This is a drop by almost 30%. Unfortunately, in some areas traditionally regarded as prime giraffe habitat, numbers have dropped by 95% in the same period.


The combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, human population growth, poaching, disease, war and civil unrest threaten the remaining giraffe numbers and their distribution throughout Africa.

Many threats arise from direct, indirect or perceived competition for resources with humans, their livestock and agricultural land. Habitat degradation and destruction is caused by an increasing human demand for agricultural land, pastoralism, and uncontrolled timber and fuel-wood harvesting.

Human-giraffe conflict can develop due to crop loss and damage, and potential disease transmission can result from habitat sharing with domestic livestock. Sadly, giraffe outside protected areas are sometimes also struck by vehicles and trains.

The fragmentation and loss of giraffe habitat caused by human encroachment often leads to the isolation of giraffe populations which, in turn, limits the flow and exchange of genetic diversity between populations.

Although there is very little evidence of species interbreeding in the wild, the translocation of one species of giraffe to an area already occupied by a different species could create the risk of hybridisation. Should they interbreed, the genetic uniqueness of each individual species would be lost.

Sw Giraffe DSC_6263Species

Giraffe occur in 21 countries in Africa. While the IUCN Red List currently recognises one species of giraffe and nine subspecies, new findings by GCF and partners clearly show four species and five confirmed subspecies of giraffe:


  • Masai (35,000): further studies required to see if Thornicroft giraffe is genetically identical to Masai giraffe, or a distinct sub species
  • Northern (5,600): Kordofan (2,000); Nubian (Rothschild’s giraffe has been identified as genetically identical to Nubian giraffe) (3,000); West African (600)
  • Reticulated (15,780)
  • Southern (54,750): Angolan (17,750); Southern African (37,000)

This updated species information is currently under further review and will hopefully soon be taken into consideration by the IUCN for future conservation assessments, giving each giraffe their own taxonomical status and mandate for increased conservation.

boma2Focus on Nubian Giraffe

At present, fewer than 200 Nubian Giraffe occur in western Ethiopia, 450 in eastern South Sudan, 800 in Kenya, and more than 1,550 in Uganda.

Based on the rate of decline, estimated at 95% in the last three decades, Nubian giraffe were, for the first time, added to the IUCN Red List and listed as Critically Endangered in 2018.

In 2010, the formerly known Rothschild’s subspecies was classified as Endangered and of high conservation importance on the IUCN Red List, but based on good conservation efforts of governments and partners, including GCF, the Rothschild’s giraffe was downlisted to Near Threatened as populations and numbers have increased. Once the IUCN recognises the two subspecies as one, the conservation status on the IUCN Red List for Nubian giraffe as a whole will most likely remain Critically Endangered, indicating an urgent need for increased conservation measures.

The Nubian giraffe’s patches are large, rectangular and chestnut-brown. The patches are surrounded by an off-white, creamy colour. There are no markings on their lower legs.

Statistics sourced from Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Sunset DSC_8682

  • Did you know? The word giraffe is believed to come from the Arab word zarafa, which means fast walker.



Giraffing Around: 4 species, 4 ways.
Some of the best places to see Giraffe.
1.See Reticulated Giraffe in Samburu, Kenya, one of Samburu’s ‘Special Five’ (Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Gerenuk and Grevy’s Zebra). You’ll also find Samburu’s famous herds of elephants here, usually by the river. Of course, if you’re visiting Kenya and love giraffe, don’t miss a visit to the AFEW Giraffe Centre in Karen, Nairobi where you can learn about efforts to save another species – the Nubian (Rothschild’s Giraffe) where you can feed them from a special platform. Next door you’ll find the famous Giraffe Manor hotel – find out more here.
2.See beautiful Nubian Giraffe (Rothschild’s), a sub species of Northern Giraffe at Murchison Falls, in Uganda – this is a giraffe conservation hot spot with the population increasing eightfold over 20 years – a fabulous success story.
3.Southern Africa’s giraffe population has nearly doubled in the past 20 years thanks to concerted conservation efforts – Etosha in Namibia is one of the best places to observe Southern Giraffe alongside big cats, rhino and elephant.
4.See huge herds of Masai giraffe against a Serengeti sunset in Tanzania. The giraffe is Tanzania’s national animal and both Tarangire and the Serengeti offer excellent opportunity to observe them.



The Big Five Series – Our Five Favourite Waterfalls in Africa

Continuing on with our series looking at the Real Africa’s team’s favourite places this week we were all voting on our favourite waterfalls! It sounds a bit obscure at first but actually a stunning waterfall can be an amazing attraction for a country and an unmissable stop on an itinerary. Just think Niagara Falls in the USA, Iguassu Falls in Brazil and Angel Falls in Venezuela. They tend to go hand in hand with stunning scenery and are jaw dropping in either their power or their size.

Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe and Zambia)

Of course first up, the most famous waterfall in Africa and perhaps the world, its Victoria Falls also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Cloud that Thunders. Victoria Falls were created where the River Zambezi drops from the flat plains into a narrow rocky chasm carved out over thousands of years by the river. This chasm or gorge is so narrow that the river is truly squeezed into a tiny space as it pours in, creating the famous river rapids so beloved of white-water rafters. The mighty river cascades over the rocky edge of the plain and falls 355 feet in depth at its mid point and over 5,604 feet in width. It is regarded as the largest waterfall in the world despite it being neither the tallest or widest but a combination of the two.  The Victoria Falls are so special they have UNESCO World Heritage Status. The two main flows of water over the Falls are split by two islands; Cataract Island and Livingstone Island. During the dry season when the water level falls more, islands appear and divide the river into parallel streams all of which have their own names: Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Eastern Cataract.

The highest water levels are between February and May with the peak usually in April when the Falls are at their most powerful. The spray from the Falls rises up to 1,300 feet in the air which can then be seen from up to 30 miles away. In fact the mist cloud is so overwhelming it isn’t possible to see the foot of the waterfall or the gorge

David Livingstone the famous Victorian explorer was the first European to see the Falls although there have been many Stone Age discoveries in the area indicating it was a popular spot even 50,000 years ago. It was Livingstone who renamed them Victoria Falls after the reining monarch. He was so enamoured of their beauty he wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

Murchison Falls (Uganda)

Another one of David Livingstone’s discoveries is the truly stunning Murchison Falls in the Murchison National Park in Uganda. This is the White Nile river and all its power comes roaring through a tiny gap in the rocks just 23 feet wide.  It then plunges 141 feet to a swirling pool below known as the Devil’s Cauldron. This huge river is squeezed through such a tiny hole that the water comes out with tremendous force making it truly spectacular despite not being massively tall or wide. The Falls are also called Kabarega Falls in their native language are between Lake Victoria and Lake Albert named after the British monarchy by Livingstone again. The outlet from Lake Victoria is about 11,000 cubic feet a second which is then squeezed through this tiny gap before bursting through the Falls with such immense power it’s mind boggling. You travel to the Falls by boat from nearby safari lodges and you can also climb up alongside the falls for a closer view.

Thomson’s Falls (Kenya)

Thomson’s Falls is a beautiful waterfalls on the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya. It drains the water which falls on the Aberdare Mountain Range at an elevation of 7,750 ft. The waterfall itself drops by 243 feet.  Yet again it was another Scottish geologist and explorer, Joseph Thomson,  who discovered them in the 1880s. At least he named them after his father rather than the monarchy again!  The heavy mist and water vapour from the waterfall helps keep the cloud-forest below dense and lush making it an excellent spot for wildlife and there are also hippos further up river. Visitors can walk a trail along the ravine at the bottom or view the Falls from the top from another marked trail and viewpoint.  Visitors can view the falls from above, or there’s also a trail down to the bottom of the ravine.

Kalambo Falls (Tanzania)

The Kalambo Falls are on the border between Zambia and Tanzania at the south-eastern end of Lake Tanganyika. The single drop fall of 772ft is one of the tallest uninterrupted falls in the whole of Africa. Downstream from the waterfall the Kalambo River cuts through the Kalambo Gorge winds its way through the Rift Valley for about 3 miles before opening out into the lake.

Interestingly this spot in the Great Rift Valley which spans East Africa is also historically very important. It would appear the Kalambo Falls have been attracting visitors for a very, very long time and it is one of the most important archaeological sites in the whole of Africa. In the 1950s archaeologists digging in the area discovered traces of human activity dating back to more than two hundred and fifty thousand years ago.

Tugela Falls  ( South Africa)

Mpumalanga in South Africa is home to many, many fantastic waterfalls due to its stunningly beautiful mountain range, the Drakensberg Mountains.  Tugela Falls is the world’s second highest waterfall after Angel Falls in Venezuela. In fact the name Tugela means sudden in Zulu the native language. And sudden they certainly are.  The total drop in five fabulous falls is an impressive 3,110 feet!  The Falls are in the protected area of the Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal Province and they have been made accessible to visitors whilst protecting the scenery and wildlife in the area. You can even see them from the main road in the park if you are lucky enough to be there after a heavy rainfall. The source of the Tugela River is the Mont-Aux-Sources mountain plateau which then cuts down through the spectacular cliff called the Amphitheatre and it is from there that the waterfall makes its spectacular drop

Visitors can hike two trails to see the Falls. The most dramatic trail is to the top of Mount-Aux-Sources, where you can climb to the top of the Amphitheatre. However it is only for the fit as it can take all day and there are several vertical chain ladders to tackle.  It is much easier to view the Falls from below from the National Park along a 4 mile hike up the Tugela Gorge. You do still have to climb rocks and a short chain ladder to access the falls at the end. However the hike and the climb are most definitely worth it as the view of these staggeringly high falls is jaw dropping!

Posted by Ruth Bolton