Marvelous Miss Mara

Mara is an amazing conservation success story. Mara (which means “spotted” in some African languages) is a reticulated giraffe now roaming freely within the breathtaking Namunyak Conservancy in northern Kenya. But life was not always as carefree and joyous for the young giraffe.

In 2016, when Mara was just a few months old, her ear was badly injured. Rushing to her aid, community members brought her to Sarara Camp, a community-led ecocamp in Namunyak Conservancy. There, with support from San Diego Zoo Global, an impromptu giraffe orphanage within the Sarara Camp horse stables sprang up and people rallied into action to care for her.

Mara was cared for and raised by amazing individuals like Lekupanii, the “orphan whisperer,” as he has come to be known.

Due to the amazing work of Sarara, and the local individuals that stepped into save Mara, she has now been successfully re-wilded and even more amazingly, she has even joined a wild herd! Seeing this animal that was saved from a terrible fate is a perfect illustration of community and conservation coming together to make a positive difference for local wildlife.

Now free to roam wherever she pleases, Mara still returns to the Sarara stables from time to time to check in with her caregivers. She has even made some cameo appearances on the trail cameras that are managed by the Twiga Walinzi initiative! (Visit to see and help us classify the field photos.)

Mara’s story provides hope to helping this species, but many other giraffes are not as fortunate. Her plight and recovery highlights the critical need to work alongside local communities to share the benefits of conservation and the challenges giraffes face across Africa. Now, everyone can help!

You can be part of the solution for saving reticulated giraffes by helping us classify field photos collected at two conservancies in northern Kenya. Start at our Wildwatch Kenya website for a quick orientation and access to our photos from motion-activated cameras. You’ll see the lion’s share of Kenya’s wildlife, including giraffes. Our goal is to finish this set of 257,000 images by the end of the year.
Together, we can do it!

With increased conservation, education efforts, and people like you helping, Mara will be one of many giraffe conservation success stories.

Jenna Stacy-Dawes is a research coordinator for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous story, Giraffes Count!