Updated: April 14, 2021 2:05:02 pm
After months of effort, a mother giraffe and her calf were rescued from an island as rising waters threatened their home in Lake Baringo in Kenya. They were the last of nine endangered giraffes to be transported to Kenya’s mainland. Now, photos shared by wildlife services in the country are going viral, with people lauding them for their prolonged effort.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and conservation partners said the rescue of the last two remaining Rothschild’s Giraffe from a disappearing Longicharo island in Lake Baringo, brings them immense joy, marking the conclusion of a mammoth rescue effort which started in December 2020.
The crucial effort was led by the local community in Ruko Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service, Save Giraffes Now and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) that has since saved nine Rothschild’s giraffes, successfully transporting them on make-shift barges across the muddy waters, which took 15 months of planning and work.
“It brings us tremendous gratitude, joy and excitement to share that the final giraffes, including baby Noelle and her mom, have been floated safely to the mainland!” Save Giraffes Now wrote online. Water levels in Lake Baringo have been rising for some time, but in 2020 the rate of rise increased flooding threatened the lives of a small group of subspecies of the northern giraffe which is classified as endangered.
In December, one of the females still on the island, Ngarikoni, gave birth to a calf named Noelle. Ngarikoni and Noelle were two of the final animals to be rescued due to the sensitive nature of moving such a young giraffe.
Kenya is home to about 800 out of an estimated 3,000 Rothschild’s giraffes that roam African jungles but are grappling with a host of threats, including habitat loss and poaching for game meat, Xinhua reported.
Patrick Omondi, KWS director of biodiversity research and planning, told the agency that moving the Rothschild’s giraffes to the mainland sanctuary will shield them from predators and enhance their ability to breed without interruption.
The rare giraffe species was reintroduced on Longicharo Island, in Ruko Community Conservancy in the north-western Kenyan county of Baringo, in 2011 to enhance their survival in a natural habitat and have been under community stewardship here for almost ten years, NRT said. “Back then, no one predicted that their peninsula home would one day become a shrinking island,” the agency said in a statement.
The wildlife conservation agency explained that rising water levels cut off their peninsula home from the mainland and Ruko rangers had to supplement the giraffe’s food as natural browse became scarce. To protect the endangered species, the Ruko Community Conservancy decided to build a new giraffe sanctuary on the mainland.
One by one, the giraffes were floated to safety on a custom barge with many boats making sure their transit was safe. “Ruko rangers worked hard to get each animal accustomed to the barge beforehand, leaving their favourite treats (mangos) on board every day to get them used to the idea of getting on and off the vessel voluntarily,” they said.
With the last two arriving safely rescue teams are now relieved. The rangers reported that the giraffe in the mainland sanctuary are “thriving and look so healthy and happy”. Now, the conservation team is not only keen to protect the rescued ones but also grow the numbers of Rothschild giraffes in the country. For the long-term, they want to “introduce other giraffes from elsewhere in Kenya, in order to build up a genetically healthy population of giraffes in the sanctuary”. Eventually, and assuming all goes well, the giraffes will be released into the Greater Rift Valley ecosystem.
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