News Release


Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,

April 21, 2016



Chicago Zoological Society Is Hosting International Giraffid Conference

to Bring Together Leaders in Giraffe and Okapi Conservation


Brookfield, Ill. – Animal care leaders from around the world are set to gather at the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo May 9-12 for the International Giraffid Conference. An opportunity to network and learn from animal care specialists, curators, veterinarians, researchers, and conservationists, this event is designed to share knowledge and hands-on experiences regarding giraffes and okapi and to promote professional development.

The four days will be filled with keynote speakers, engaging workshops, and research presentations led by experts in giraffe and okapi conservation, both in professional care and in the wild. The keynote presentations each day come from John Doherty of the Reticulated Giraffe Project, John Lukas of the Okapi Conservation Project, and Zoe Muller of the Rothschild’s Giraffe Project. Among the topics to be covered are giraffe husbandry, veterinary care of okapi, and understanding giraffe populations in the wild.

“We are excited and honored to host individuals from across the globe for this inspiring conference,” says Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs for the Chicago Zoological Society. “It is our hope that the synergy created by this gathering of in-situ and ex-situ experts will result in enhanced collaboration and improved management techniques for giraffes and okapi in the wild and under the care of professionals.”

Giraffes and okapi are in need of conservation in the wild, which is what makes conferences such as these so critical for advancing the scientific knowledge surrounding these species. With a better understanding of their behavior, scientists and researchers can apply what they know to helping these species thrive. Brookfield Zoo was proud to have the first okapi birth at a U.S. zoo in 1959 and has had 59 reticulated giraffe births.

A global initiative by the Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group (GOSG) of the IUCN Species Survival Commission was established in 2013 to bring attention to the declining populations of these species. It was formed to help attract and strengthen international support for giraffes and okapi and to provide an official forum to support the implementation of much-needed conservation strategies for the species across Africa.

In the last decade, giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent, and there are now fewer than 80,000 individuals in Africa. There are fewer than 5,000 reticulated giraffe (the species at Brookfield Zoo) left in East Africa. Additionally, of the nine subspecies of giraffes in Africa, two—the West African giraffe and the Rothschild’s giraffe—are classified as endangered, with less than 250 and 1,500 individuals, respectively, remaining in the wild. The populations are declining due to a number of factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation coupled with human population growth and illegal hunting.

Okapi numbers in the wild are also predicted to continue on a downward trend due to habitat loss; the bushmeat trade; and human settlement, mining, war, and political instability in these animals’ region.

Nearly 130 individuals are registered to attend the conference, and they represent 23 U.S. states, as well as Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, India, Japan, and Africa. The conference is sponsored by the Women’s Board of the Chicago Zoological Society.


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About the Chicago Zoological Society

The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit



Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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