What you need to know:
- The project to rescue the giraffes from the shrinking island took more than a year in an ambitious exercise carried out by the KWS, NRT and the Save Giraffes Now.
- The barge was custom-built by the Ruko community out of steel and designed to float on top of a series of empty drums.
- Due to flooding in the lake, their habitat is becoming mushy, making the giraffes unable to feed properly.
Endangered giraffes have been moved from Long’icharo Island in Lake Baringo, where they had been marooned, to Ruko conservancy on the mainland.
The Rothschild’s giraffes were moved to Long’icharo Island in the middle of Lake Baringo in 2011 by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) to protect them from poaching. The island, which hosted nine endangered Rothschild giraffes and other wildlife, reduced in size after the drastic rise of water levels in Lake Baringo.
The project to rescue the giraffes from the shrinking island took more than a year in an ambitious exercise carried out by the KWS, NRT and the Save Giraffes Now, a non-profit organisation. It involved planning the rescue by designing and building a barge to move the wildlife and creating a 4,400-acre sanctuary on the mainland for the animals.
The barge was custom-built by the Ruko community out of steel and designed to float on top of a series of empty drums. It had tall reinforced sides to keep the giraffes from jumping out while being tugged by boats.
According to the Baringo County KWS warden Peter Lekeren, the relocation of the giraffes was no mean task because they were supposed to be trained to feed on a jetty that is meant to ferry them from the Island to the mainland. “So far the exercise has seen the movement of wildlife including the nine giraffes, warthogs, impalas and an ostrich to the Ruko Conservancy,” said Lekeren.
He noted that they were done with analysis and sensitisation of the communities bordering the conservancy to ensure the wildlife, especially the endangered giraffe species, are safe from poaching.
According to Lake Baringo senior warden Jackson Komen, out of the initial 188 acres of the island, only 15 acres is remaining.
Ruko rangers worked hard to get each animal used to the barge beforehand, leaving their favourite treats (pellets, acacia leaves, seed pods, even mangos) on board every day to get them used to the idea of getting on and off the vessel voluntarily.
“Giraffes are not aquatic animals but browsers. Due to flooding in the lake, their habitat is becoming mushy, making them unable to feed properly,” said the warden.
He said the remaining part of the island is also hilly and rocky which is not habitable for the giraffes, who like flat land.