The IDA’s PAWS research programme made possible a five-month study of habitat utilization by Rothchild’s giraffe in Lake Nakuru National Park during 1994-95. The survey, contracted by the KWS Research unit, was carried out by a lecturer in wildlife management at Moi University.
The primary objective was to examine giraffe debarking of Acacia xanthophloea and their browsing impacts on other plant species. Available browse areas, food and feeding habits, giraffe distribution patterns and deaths of acacia trees also were examined.
More than 170 Rothchild’s giraffe live in Lake Nakuru National Park, making it an extremely successful giraffe sanctuary. Eight calves were born during each period. A key finding of the study was that the giraffe prefer the southern end of the park and tend to concentrate
there. Despite the greater availability of food, only 6% of the park’s giraffe ever forage in the north.
Giraffe, and to a lesser extent, baboon were found to be the park’s principal bark strippers. Should the death of acacias as a result of debarking continue at the same rate, the resulting
reduction in forest and woodland and increase in bush and grassland could have serious effects. Concomitant growth in the population of browsers including warthog, waterbuck, zebra, rhino, impala, bushback and Grant’s gazelle could fundamentally alter the park’s ecosystem. As a result of these findings, KWS plans to translocate up to thirty giraffe from Lake Nakuru National Park to Soysambu, a private reserve nearby.