Conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society are using state-of-the-art technology to help safeguard the future of giraffe in Cameroon.
Dr Grainne McCabe, Will Walker and Osiris Doumbe spent more than three weeks in Bénoué National Park and set up special cameras that are triggered by movement to keep track of the population of Kordofan giraffe.
The work is important because giraffe populations across Africa have fallen by 40 per cent in the past 30 years.
Each month footage from the cameras will be sent back to Bristol to help Dr McCabe and her colleagues identify individual giraffe and build up a database.
Dr McCabe, who is head of field conservation and science at Bristol Zoological Society, said the cameras were already proving successful.
She said “We have caught a group on camera with two babies which proves the population, though small, is still breeding.”
During their time in Cameroon, Dr McCabe and her colleagues also trained eco guards who work in the 690 square mile national park to use the cameras and took out equipment to help them on their regular patrols.
These included portable water filters which fit on the end of bottles and ensure river water is safe to drink.
They also took tents donated by Bristol Zoological Society and uniforms and boots given by Keynsham-based construction firm Dribuild.
Bristol Zoological Society is also paying for food for the guards on their monthly patrols which can last for up to five days.
The patrols are crucial in tackling the problems of illegal activities ranging from hunting to illegal cattle grazing, gold mining and the theft of infant giraffe for private collections.
Dr McCabe said: “We need to decrease the threats and the number of illegal operations going on.”
She said: “It will take a while to see a measurable change in the population but if we can stop the decline in their numbers that is a start.
Dr McCabe said the patrols will hopefully mean giraffe can breed normally and build-up their numbers. In turn that will bring tourists back to Bénoué National Park and benefit the whole economy.
She said: “We really felt that we were on the front-line of conservation where the threats are severe and the population is quite low.
“We saw and experienced some challenging things out there but we have the capacity to make a significant difference.”
During their time in Cameroon the Bristol Zoological Society conservationists also carried out a survey of hippopotamus along 55 miles of the Bénoué River.
Dr McCabe said: “The population seems to be stable, the numbers from the previous survey two years ago were roughly the same as this time and we saw lots of babies which is a really good sign.”