Ruko Community Conservancy, Kenya
A BOLD OPERATION TO SAVE THE LAST ROTHSCHILD’S GIRAFFE
Have you ever seen a floating giraffe? Few people had … but that didn’t stop us when the need arose.
In 2020, we launched an ambitious (and amphibious) plan with our partners to return Rothschild’s giraffe to the iconic Eastern Rift Valley, their ancestral home where they were wiped out 70 years ago.
On a brilliant sunlit day in December 2020, we successfully began the rescue of trapped giraffe from an island in Lake Baringo that is being flooded by rising water levels. We are sailing them to a special sanctuary on the mainland on a barge made by local community members.
First, we rescued the two most imperiled giraffe from the island, Asiwa and Pasaka, gently floating them than a mile to safety in their new home at the Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy. Then in January 2021, we moved the lone bull, Lbarnoti. The big male walked calmly onto the barge, and never stopped eating acacia seed pods on the whole trip!
Our plan is to try to train the remaining six island giraffe – including new calf Noelle, born in December – to also enter the barge voluntarily, so we can move them soon.
Rothschild’s (Nubian) giraffe numbers have plummeted by 80%, leaving only 3,000 in the wild today. But there is hope, sparked by innovative conservation teamwork such as this.
“We feel a great sense of urgency to complete this rescue,” said our president, David O’Connor. “With giraffe undergoing a silent extinction, every one we can protect matters.”
We also will reintroduce a further 12-15 Rothschild’s giraffe from Soysambu Reserve and Ruma National Park in Kenya.
Working with the communities in the area over the next several years, we will keep this combined group of giraffe safe, and as they breed and their numbers grow, they will repopulate the Eastern Rift over time, eventually rejoining their cousins in Uganda!