Remote African nation saves rare giraffes from extinction

Niger doesn’t get in the news much. This landlocked Saharan nation doesn’t have much in the way of national resources, is listed by the UN as one of the world’s least developed countries, and yet it has a serious attitude towards conservation.

Niger is home to a unique subspecies of giraffe, pictured here. Poaching and desertification had reduced its numbers to only fifty individuals a decade ago, but then the people of Niger realized what they were about to lose, banned hunting, and launched a conservation program. Now thanks to these efforts the giraffes’ numbers have risen to two hundred. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation has been working with the Niger government and people to keep this positive trend going.

Strangely, the giraffes are congregating around the capital Niamey, where they can be seen wandering across farmers’ fields and drinking from troughs set out for cattle.

The government hopes the giraffes will promote tourism. While Niger is beneath most travelers’ radar, its very remoteness could be a draw for people interested in visiting traditional societies and seeing the Sahara’s harsh beauty. A night camping under the full moon in the Sahara is one of my favorite travel memories. A few giraffes walking across the silvered landscape would have made it even better.