Rare Giraffe Subspecies Gaining Numbers

Things are looking much brighter for the Niger Giraffe, a rare subspecies of Giraffe. Once nearly extinct, the Niger Giraffe is seeing its population grow after many years of noble protection from both government and non-governmental groups.

The subspecies of giraffe, the giraffa camelopardalis peralta, is not too different from the giraffes commonly seen at zoos. They have the typical long necks, long legs, and brown spots-only their brown spots are lighter. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the Niger Giraffe "has large orange-brown spots on its body that fade to white on its legs."

This subspecies of giraffe is unique to the Niger area, though they once populated all of western Africa. Now, the giraffa camelopardalis peralta only live in southwestern Niger, about an hour outside of Niamy, the country's capital city.

This subspecies of giraffe was closest to extinction in 1996, when just 50 members of the subspecies were left on earth. Since then, however, their population has grown quite a bit. According to Niger's Environment Ministry, "Efforts deployed by the government to protect the giraffes have borne fruit as their population has increased from about 50 in 1996 to 310 in 2011." The numbers for 2012 were not reported.

But groups not associated with the government have helped quite a bit as well. Yahoo News reports that The Association to Safeguard the Giraffes of Niger has had an enormous impact on protecting this subspecies of giraffe. The Association fostered community support for protecting the subspecies. The Association to Safeguard the Giraffes of Niger works along side the French zoo, Doue La Fontaine.

The main threats to these giraffes come in two forms, one of malice and one of accident. Poachers are a serious threat, and in 2010, despite the subspecies being so vulnerable, two giraffes were killed by poachers. However, another, and perhaps less expected threat to this subspecies of giraffe is highway traffic, particularly during the darkness of night.