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The Maasai giraffe is found in Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya, and has recently been proposed as one of four distinct species of giraffes. They are easily distinguished from other giraffes by the jagged, irregularly shaped brown patches on their hide, which extend all the way down to their hooves. Overall, giraffes are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching, and have declined by over 30% in the last 30 years. In collaboration with researchers from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (Morogoro, Tanzania), Dr. Clinton Epps and Rachel Crowhurst conducted a population genetic study of Maasai giraffe across much of Tanzania. They quantified genetic structure among eight national parks and game reserves, identified landscape features that might limit gene flow across their range, and contrasted this with three other species of varying dispersal capabilities. This information provided managers with baseline estimates of historical connectivity across the landscape, and identified regions where measures to preserve gene flow would have the greatest effect.
Did you know? NASA studied giraffes when designing space suits for astronauts. Because of their long limbs and necks, giraffes have evolved a natural "anti-gravity suit" that keeps blood from pooling in their legs or causing them to faint when they lean down to drink.
Crowhurst et al. 2013 (Conservation Genetics Resources), Epps et al. 2011 (Diversity and Distributions), Crowhurst 2012 (MSc thesis)