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Masai giraffe
Mannetjes masaigiraffe in de Serengeti, Tanzania, -12 januari 2013 a.jpg
A Masai giraffe in Serengeti, Tanzania
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Giraffa camelopardalis subspecies map.jpg
Range map in blue

The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii), also spelled Maasai giraffe, also called Kilimanjaro giraffe, is the largest subspecies of giraffe. It is native to East Africa. The Masai giraffe can be found in central and southern Kenya and in Tanzania. It has distinctive, irregular, jagged, star-like blotches that extend to the hooves. A median forehead lump is usually present in bulls.

Taxonomy

The IUCN currently recognizes only one species of giraffe with nine subspecies The Masai giraffe was described and given the binomial name Giraffa tippelskirchi by German zoologist Paul Matschie in 1898, but current taxonomy refers to Masai giraffe as Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi. The Masai giraffe was named in honor of Herr von Tippelskirch who was a member of a German scientific expedition in German East Africa to what is now northern Tanzania in 1896. Tippelskirch brought back the skin of a female Masai giraffe from near Lake Eyasi which was later on identified as Giraffa tippelskirchi. Alternative taxonomic hypotheses have proposed Masai giraffe may be its own species.

Description

The Masai giraffe is distinguished by jagged spots on its body, geographic range including southern Kenya and all of Tanzania, and genetic evidence. It is the largest-bodied giraffe species, making it the tallest land animal on Earth.

Conservation

Masai giraffes are considered endangered by the IUCN, and the Masai giraffe population declined 52% in recent decades due to poaching and habitat loss. Overall, the approximate number of all populations accumulate to 32,550 in the wild. Demographic studies of wild giraffes living inside and outside protected areas suggest low adult survival outside protected areas due to poaching, and low calf survival inside protected areas due to predation are the primary influences on population growth rates. Survival of giraffe calves is influenced by the season of birth, and the seasonal local presence or absence of long-distance migratory herds of wildebeest and zebra. Metapopulation analysis indicated protected areas were important for keeping giraffes in the larger landscape. In situ conservation of Masai giraffes is being done by several government agencies including Kenya Wildlife Service, Tanzania National Parks, Zambia Wildlife Authority; and non-governmental organizations including PAMS Foundation, and Wild Nature Institute. Community-based wildlife conservation areas have also been shown to be effective at protecting giraffes. At several zoos, Masai giraffe have become pregnant and successfully given birth.

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