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North American Giraffe Species

Discussion in 'North America - General' started by Westcoastperson, 6 Apr 2021.

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  1. Westcoastperson

    Westcoastperson Well-Known Member

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    Ok so for a long time now I have been very confused about Giraffe species in North America so I just wanted this thread to clear it up. I know for sure that there are Masai (G. c. tippleskirchi) and Reticulated (G. c. reticulata) Giraffes in the US, but I have also found evidence of there being Rothschilds Giraffe (G. c. rothschildi) at San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Nubian Giraffes (G. c. camelopardalis). Also some of these species are only hybrids so why haven't they imported new species? Also, how are these species spread out across North American Zoos?
     
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  2. Animals R AMAZING!

    Animals R AMAZING! Well-Known Member

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    I know for sure that the Masai Giraffes are all purebred animals but I believe the "Reticulated" giraffes and other (sub)species are all hybrid/generic animals. I know the AZA manages generic giraffes and Masai giraffes and according to this source only 35 AZA zoos have Masai giraffes while 86 have generic giraffes (however, this could've changed since this is from 2019).

    https://static1.squarespace.com/sta...d5c4e0d57635d2e8b41/1576254860964/Giraffe.pdf
     
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  3. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member

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    Depending on your interpretation of whether there is one species of giraffe with nine subspecies (IUCN still has it this way) or the recent findings supported by Giraffe Conservation Foundation that supports 4 species with 7 subspecies you may find different answers. There are 2 SSPs for giraffes in North America. One for Masai Giraffes and one for Reticulated Giraffes. If you look at the genetics and the family trees of the Reticulated Giraffes in the SSP, many of them have origins in Rothschild's Giraffes. In the GCF supported species interpretation, Rothchild's Giraffes are not a unique subspecies and are absorbed into the Nubian Giraffe which is a subspecies of Northern Giraffe. While Reticulated giraffes are a unique species under this interpretation, some are in support of a three species model where Reticulated Giraffes become a subspecies under Northern Giraffe as well. Because of this, especially on this forum Reticulated Giraffes are often called Generic Giraffes. Masai Giraffe genetics are much less muddied in American Zoos from what I can tell but less numerous.
     
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  4. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    There was a genetic study done in 2004 (this is the abstract for that paper: https://www.researchgate.net/public...d_to_Extant_Giraffe_Populations_across_Africa) that compared genetic samples from 125 giraffes in North American zoos to over 400 wild individuals from multiple species/subspecies. The results were that the captive and wild Masai populations matched up genetically, but the captive Reticulated/Rothschild's/hybrid genetics were all over the place and did not conform with the samples from pure wild subspecies. This suggests that the vast majority of non-Masai giraffes in North America are a hybrid form, which is why they are managed as a single population.

    There is a sizable population of Masai in US zoos but the generic population is much larger.
     
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  5. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    In Mexico:

    Chapultepec zoo - Reticulated

    San Juan de Aragon zoo - Reticulated

    Guadalajara zoo -Reticulated

    Zacango zoo - Reticulated

    Africam Safari - Reticulated

    Morelia zoo - Reticulated

    Leon zoo - Reticulated

    I imagine that at least some of these animals listed as reticulated are probably hybrids though.
     
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  6. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    Thankfully ZooChat has a giraffe expert. Paging @DavidBrown ...
     
  7. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    The barrier to bringing in new founding giraffe populations to American zoos is strict USDA regulation that makes it impossible to do so, is my understanding. The regulations are designed to keep exotic diseases from reaching American cattle and other livestock. I don't know specifics beyond that.

    So the giraffe populations available are now managed as Masai and a generic hybridized population of reticulated and Rothschild's. Ideally I'm sure that managers would like to start over and phase out hybrids over time and re-found the reticulated and Rothshchild's populations, but that is not going to happen in any foreseeable reality that I know about.
     
  8. EsserWarrior

    EsserWarrior Well-Known Member

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    Does the AZA strictly breed Masai due to their know heritage? Or do they breed the generics as well?
     
  9. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    There are breeding programs for both Masai and generic giraffe populations.
     
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  10. Pongo

    Pongo Active Member

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    Interesting topic. I tripped over a picture of a giraffe calf in Miami earlier this week, which looked a lot like a hybrid between reticulated and probably Rothschild's. A while ago I was stunned to see that another AZA zoo was having what looked like a male Rothschild's giraffe and female reticulated giraffes and was breeding with them. Seriously, what is the sense in having a breeding program for hybrids?!? Why doesn't AZA focus on Masai giraffes since EAZA is having the resources to maintain a stable reticulated and Nubian/Rotschild's giraffe program?!?
     
  11. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Perhaps the Masai population is not growing quickly enough to replace hybrid giraffes when they die. Zoos still need giraffes and replacing one herd through attrition can be a long-term process, let alone replacing an entire population of hundreds of animals... therefore, some breeding may be necessary to maintain stable numbers and fill demand.

    Hybrid giraffes can also still serve many of a zoo's goals: fundraising, conservation awareness, education, immersion, advertising, etc... so there's a case to be made that the population currently still serves a useful role despite not being pure subspecies.
     
  12. Westcoastperson

    Westcoastperson Well-Known Member

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    I agree Giraffes are a very important and influential species but maybe we could change how we view education for Generic Giraffes. Every zoo I have seen labels Generic Giraffes as Reticulated and there could be issues with that. Zoos should at least try to explain these aren't pure Reticulated Giraffes and they should be marketed as so. Generic Giraffes are a good stand-in for pure species but they need to be handled as hybrids, not as pure species.
     
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  13. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    The very essence of this policy underlines why it is both rationally and ethically managementwise unsound and counter productive to true conservation purposes and needs.
     
  14. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I agree but I dont think the policymakers are likely to be too concerned about the long-term genetic viability / purity of pure giraffe subspecies in US zoos but rather about keeping the agribusinesses / ranchers and their lobbies happy.

    If there is even a slim chance of any spillover of infectious disease / zoonosis passing from wild or captive animals imported from Africa to cattle or other livestock that will be the kiss of death for any imports of new animals / blood.
     
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  15. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking about transfer between continents and not wild to captive. The chances an animal transfer regulated by international trade in exotic species and stringent veterinary practice in transport and testing makes this chance rather slim. The real threat is from agriculture and cattle ranching itself (antibiotics, large distance transfer of big numbers ... et cetera), in reality it should be the other way round. Talk of an industry with gross oversight both in transport, veterinary and husbandry ...!
     
  16. PossumRoach

    PossumRoach Well-Known Member

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    But don't you know? Those giraffe and antelope aren't imported for zoos isolated from farms. They are imported by biosecurity terrorists to make the cattle sick and cause mass starvation in the first world !!!!1!!;)
     
  17. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with what you've said about agribusiness / cattle ranching and as you know this is a worldwide problem and especially within some countries *cough* ...Brazil... *cough* :rolleyes:.


    Still, yes, they pull the strings when it comes to policy making and I don't think that is going to change anytime soon.
     
  18. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Lol :D
     
  19. Pongo

    Pongo Active Member

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    I don't know about the number of Masai giraffes but the issue is that the number of hybrids doesn't go down if zoos keep on breeding with them, which causes that there is less space for pure species/subspecies and less motivation and possibility for a change.
     
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  20. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Being directly involved in this program, I have a lot more to say on this subject and a lot more to add to this discussion, so look for a more in depth response in the future. I just don’t have the time at the moment.

    That said, I will say that this is not the case— @Coelacanth18 is correct. There is not a space issue— there is a high demand for Masai giraffe. Zoos really *want* to switch to Masai ( there’s a waiting list to begin the switchover process), the problem is that there just aren’t enough of them yet. The facilities that have them are breeding them, and the population is growing. It’s just growing slowly. Masai giraffe have a very small founder base, and as such, they have a higher infant mortality rate than generic giraffe and are prone to other health issues as well. While the Masai population is growing, there is still a very high demand for giraffe in zoos, and that is why generic giraffe are still being bred. The two populations are not competing with each other.
     
    Last edited: 13 Apr 2021