African giraffe species as of 2017

African giraffe species based on genetic studies - 2016 status. From



For many years, it was thought that there was only one species of giraffe in Africa. Based on distinct patterns and distribution, the African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) was divided into nine subspecies. These were:

1. West African Giraffe (G. c. peralta) : Niger

2. Nubian Giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis) : western Ethiopia and South Sudan

3. Kordofan Giraffe (G. c. antiquorum) : southern Chad, Central African Republican, northern Cameroon, northern Democratic Republic of Congo and likely South Sudan

4. South African Giraffe (G. c. giraffa) : South Africa, southern Botswana and southern Zimbabwe

5. Reticulated Giraffe (G. c. reticulata) : southern Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and Kenya

6. Angolan Giraffe (G. c. angolensis) : northern Namibia, south-western Zambia, Botswana, and western Zimbabwe

7. Thornicroft’s Giraffe / Rhodesian Giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti) : eastern Zambia

8. Masai Giraffe (G. c. tippelskirchi) : central and southern Kenya and in Tanzania

9. Rothschild’s Giraffe (G. c. rothschildi) : northern Uganda and west-central Kenya


Then, in 2007, a genetics study of Giraffa by Brown et al. (2007) suggested there are six species, the West African, Rothschild's, Reticulated, Masai, Angolan, and South African giraffe. The study deduced from genetic drift in nuclear and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that giraffes from these populations are reproductively isolated and rarely interbreed. The Masai giraffe was also suggested to consist of possibly two species separated by the Rift Valley.

A study from 2016 confirmed the multispecies giraffe theory. Fennessy et al. (2016) suggested the existence of four species, which have not exchanged genetic information between each other for 1 million to 2 million years. Although still debated, currently four African giraffe species are recognized, in addition to 7 extinct species. The taxonomy is:

1. Northern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Divided into 3 subspecies, the West African Giraffe, the Kordofan Giraffe, and the Nubian Giraffe (includes former Rothschild’s Giraffe)

2. Southern Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa). Divided into the Angolan Giraffe and the South African Giraffe

3. Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata)

4. Masai Giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi). Divided into the Masai Giraffe and the Rhodesian giraffe (ecotype found in the Luangwa Valley in eastern Zambia)

Relocation by humans may lead to hybrids between the species, as interbreeding may occur in zoo enclosures. In the wild, however, research has suggested that the sync of rain-driven mating cycles prevent hybridization (Thomassen et al., 2013). In Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, an interface between the Reticulated and the Masai Giraffe is found (Obari, 2014). On this page, I show some of these species, animals seen during African safari's between 1994 and 2016.


Nubian Giraffe, a subspecies of Northern Giraffe, Nakuru National Park, Kenya, 2010. Previously called Rothschild’s Giraffe


Nubian Giraffe, Nakuru National Park, Kenya, 2010

Nubian Giraffe, Nakuru National Park, Kenya, 2010


South African Giraffe, a subspecies of Southern Giraffe, Chobe Natioanl Park, Botswana, 2015


South African Giraffe, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana, 2015


South African Giraffe, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana, 2015


South African Giraffe, seen in Savuti, Chobe Natioanl Park, Botswana, 2015. Pattern-wise this one looks more like a Masai Giraffe than South African Giraffe

Reticulated Giraffe, Samburu National Park, Kenya, 1994


Reticulated Giraffe, Samburu National Park, Kenya, 1994

Interface between Reticulated Giraffe and Masai Giraffe, Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, 2010


Tsavo East NP giraffes. The one to the left looks pure Masai Giraffe, while the one to the right partly resemble a Reticulated Giraffe


Masai Giraffe, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, 2010. This is the tallest and darkest subspecies of giraffe



Masai Giraffe, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, 2016


Masai Giraffe, Hell's Gate National Park, Kenya, 1994


Masai Giraffe, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, 2007


Brown, D.M., Brenneman, R.A., Koepfli, K.P., Pollinger, J.P., Mila, B., Georgiadis, N.J., Louis, E.E., Jr., Grether, G.F., Jacobs, D.K., Wayne, R.K., 2007. Extensive population genetic structure in the giraffe. BMC Biol 5, 57.

Fennessy, J., Bidon, T., Reuss, F., Kumar, V., Elkan, P., Nilsson, M.A., Vamberger, M., Fritz, U., Janke, A., 2016. Multi-locus analyses reveal four giraffe species instead of one. Curr Biol 26, 2543-2549.

Obari, T.O., 2014. Population ecology of Maasai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) in relation to climate variability in southern Kenya. PhD thesis. University of Nairobi.

Thomassen, H.A., Freedman, A.H., Brown, D.M., Buermann, W., Jacobs, D.K., 2013. Regional differences in seasonal timing of rainfall discriminate between genetically distinct East African giraffe taxa. PloS One 8, e77191.