Implications of closed ecosystem conservation management: the decline of Rothschild’s giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Giraffe were historically free-ranging across most of sub-Saharan Africa but are now most often confined to national parks, conservation areas, or private ranches. Five viable populations of Rothschild’s giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) remain in protected areas in Kenya and Uganda. The viable population in Uganda is Murchison Falls National Park and the four populations in Kenya are Lake Nakuru National Park (LNNP), Ruma National Park, Giraffe Manor, and Mwea Natural Reserve. The Kenya Wildlife Service queried a rapid decline in LNNP giraffe numbers falling from 153 individuals (1995) to 62 individuals (2002) and the failure of that population to recruit young in those years. Significantly reduced browse options, inbreeding depression and preferential lion predation were considered as potential reasons for this trend. Population genetic parameter estimates derived from multilocus genotype analyses suggest that the LNNP population was in good genetic health with respect to the likelihood of inbreeding depression. The population decline coincided with the drought attributed to the 1994 El Niño. Possible dietary complications from highly concentrated tannin levels because of forced over consumption of the park’s declining acacia trees may have compromised young giraffe, making them easy and opportunistic prey for the park’s lion population.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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