The University of the Free State (UFS) is leading the fight against the extinction of giraffes and has assembled the largest research team in the world to manage, coordinate, and address this issue. Seven UFS departments are involved in this research.
Dr Francois Deacon, a wildlife habitat expert in the UFS Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences, is leading the team of researchers who tasked themselves with better understanding the giraffe, and in so doing, save the giraffe. He said: “One way to stop the plummeting numbers is to learn more about how giraffes use their habitat and how much area they need in order to survive.”
Dr Deacon focuses on the spatial ecology of wild animals. His main research focus is to understand the ecological and biological factors that regulate giraffe in their natural habitat.
He collaborated with a documentary film crew to release the second in a trilogy of documentaries regarding giraffes and their natural habitat. The first, Last of the Longnecks, focused on the fact that giraffes are becoming extinct. The second documentary, Catching Giants, which was released last year, includes footage on how a multi-specialist research group of over 30 people from 10 different countries worked together to collect information about these little-known animals.
Documentaries such as these, together with a recent insert in the local wildlife documentary on SABC 2, 50/50, also helped to raise awareness on the giraffe and its plight.
Telling the truth
Dr Deacon said: “It is extremely important for the public to see how involved we really are with a major problem such as a species becoming extinct. Media exposure outlines the truth of what man is doing to nature. Cooperating with media such as the BBC, National Geographic, and 50/50, offers other journalists, producers, editors, and authors the opportunity to also take responsibility for raising awareness on the issue.”
“Apart from the fact that awareness is shedding light on the problem, it also highlights who the leaders in this field are, what they are doing to address the problem, and what more is needed to make a change. The latter includes the funding of postgraduate students to conduct further research on this matter. If we were able to gather sufficient knowledge through different research questions across the globe, we could really make a difference in saving giraffes from extinction.”