Giraffes could be back at Edinburgh Zoo by 2020 as campaign launched

Edinburgh Zoo is sticking its neck out on World Giraffe Day by launching a campaign to give Rothschild’s giraffes a home again on Corstorphine Hill.

Friday, 21st June 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 21st June 2019, 7:00 am
Visitors meet one ofthe giraffes at Edinburgh Zoo in April 1970.

It is the first in the series of the Big Five campaign which will address critical environmental issues and seek to help the species suffering from it.

Giraffes last resided in Edinburgh Zoo 15 years ago, but the crowdfunding campaign launched today hopes to raise £100,000 to create a new landscape for them and conserve them in the wild.

Since the time that they left the zoo, the wild giraffe population has declined by 45 per cent and they are now more endangered than elephants in Africa.

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Giraffes being fed leaves in Ediinburgh Zoo by keepers Darren McGarry and Karen Stiven

The money raised will go towards creating a unique giraffe house with open spaces to roam and high level walkways so that visitors can come face to face with the giants which they hope to house in 2020.

Dr Charlotte Macdonald, Director of Conservation and Living Collections at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “Primarily, the decline in giraffe population is down to changes in land use and degradation, which is directly connected to human activity.

“The good thing is, there has been a lot of work implemented in recent years, we are thankfully almost at the point where we are stopping the decline.

“Most Rothschild’s giraffes are now in protected areas where we are able to enforce legislation to conserve them.”

Baby Sapphire gets a kiss from her mother, Jade.The baby giraffe was born at Edinburgh Zoo on 11 July. Pic: PA/David Cheskin.

Darren McGarry, Head of Living collections at Edinburgh Zoo, previously worked as a keeper and worked with the giraffes when they were last housed at the zoo.

He said: “Giraffes were held in the zoo for many years, from around the 1930s, but it was in the 1980s we looked at captive breeding programmes and the Rothschild’s giraffes specifically were brought in.

“The captive breeding programme links up with the conservation projects in the wild and we want to carry on with it to help repopulate giraffes.

“We want to have big charismatic animals in the zoo, my staff and I are really excited to have them back, they’ve always been a bit of a favourite.”

A baby giraffe. Pic: PA Photo: David Cheskin.

World Giraffe Day celebrates the long-necked animals as well as raises support and creates awareness of the issues the creatures face in the wild.

Barbara Smith, Chief Executive of the RZSS, said: “We are incredibly excited to launch our campaign to bring giraffes to Edinburgh Zoo and help save them in the wild.

“With support, we plan to build a specially-designed home for Rothschild’s giraffes and work with conservation partners in Africa to protect a wild population which has been reduced to fewer than 1,500, principally due to habitat loss.

“This is the first step of Scotland’s most ambitious international conservation campaign, named Edinburgh Zoo’s Big 5, which will address five critical environmental issues for wildlife and harness our expertise to help save species from extinction.

“It is a vision we can only 
deliver with support from people who also care deeply for wildlife and want to help us connect people with nature and safeguard threatened species.”

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