UWA creates new habitat for giraffes at Pian Upe

As part of its ongoing program to diversify the animal population in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in Nakapiripirit district, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has introduced giraffes to the game reserve which is being prepared for elevation to a national park.

A total of 15 giraffes including five males and 10 females is planned to be moved from Murchison Falls National Park to reserve.

The translocation of giraffes to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is in line with UWA’s strategic objectives of re-introducing extinct species to habitats where they previously lived.

“This exercise addresses one of our key conservation objectives of restoring and managing viable populations of extinct or endangered species. We are happy that we now have giraffes in Pian Upe after very many years and we hope this will further enhance tourism in the reserve,” said Dr. Panta Kasoma, a member of the UWA board.

UWA’s Deputy Director of Field Operations, Charles Tumwesigye said that in a bid to enhance the tourism potential of Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, UWA last year translocated 92 Impalas to into the reserve.

He added that UWA’s efforts to protect the wildlife in the reserve have also resulted in increased numbers of roan antelopes, elands, zebras, hartebeests, and cheetahs among others.

The three week translocation exercise will enhance the long-term survival of the species; restore natural biodiversity and long-term economic benefits to the entire wildlife conservation value chain.

It will also enable communities with cultural attachment to the giraffe to participate in its conservation, enhance the conservation value of Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve by reintroducing one of its indigenous species that had become extinct there and diversify tourism products with associated ecological and economic benefits.

UWA vets tranquilizing a captured giraffe before its translocation

THE GIRAFFE

Giraffes live primarily in savannah and their height allows them to eat leaves and shoots located much higher than other savannah animals can reach, offering them a different food supply.

Males can grow up to 6 metres in height. They mainly look out for Acacia trees. Their long neck is a feeding adaptation that enables them to obtain food that others can’t thereby reducing competition with other animals.

Their long tongues are also helpful in pulling leaves from thorns and their long legs allow them to run fast from potential predators.

Giraffes are quite peaceful; they do not form territories and they are quite social as they live in loose herds ranging from one to over one hundred animals.

The major threats to the giraffe population are humans, who illegally kill them for their skin, meat and hair on the tail.

Like other savannah animals, they are susceptible to diseases, which are also a threat. Lions also view them as prey so they need to protect themselves from this potential predator.

History has not been kind to the giraffes in Uganda. Rinderpest wiped out the giraffe population in Ankole region, while in the north and north eastern the population decimation was largely a result of armed conflict, trophy hunting and poaching for meat.

These incidents led to local extinction of giraffe in Matheniko by the end of 1968 then Bokora and Pian Upe by the end of 1996.

These threats have now been greatly reduced by law enforcement in our protected areas, significant veterinary monitoring and improved community relations.

In 2015, a re-introduction of 15 giraffes was done in Lake Mburo National Park, and 2016 – 2017, 36 giraffes were translocated from Northern side of Murchison Falls National Park to the southern side.

In 2018, 14 giraffes were translocated from Murchison falls national park to Kidepo Valley National Park.

All these successful translocations have since registered births and their populations have increased hence boosting giraffe numbers nationally.