Three decades ago, Rothschild giraffes roamed across Kenya, Uganda, and southern Sudan in massive herds.
Sadly, their population has declined by about 80 percent, leading experts to call them “arguably one of the most imperiled giraffe subspecies.” Only about 3,000 of these majestic animals remain in Uganda and Kenya today.
Since 2011, a small herd of Rothschild giraffes has lived on Longicharo Island in Lake Baringo, Kenya. As global temperatures continue to rise, so have the waters of the lake. Locals watched in horror as the island that housed these precious giraffes slowly began to sink, eliminating the herd’s food sources and repeatedly flooding their habitat.
Animal activists knew they had to do something to save these critically endangered mammals. So American nonprofit Save Giraffes Now teamed up with Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust and other conservation agencies to come up with a solution.
Their creative fix? A barge with very tall walls that would be kept afloat by 60 empty drums and towed by boats. They called their invention the “GiRaft.”
The first step in the relocation project was getting the giraffes used to seeing the barge. They filled it with treats and left it on the island for days, letting the animals get comfortable walking on and off the platform on their own.
One by one, they started luring the giraffes over and trapping them aboard. The animals were then floated 1 mile across the lake to an enclosed sanctuary on higher ground.
A female giraffe named Asiwa was the first to make the journey to her new home!
Slowly but surely, seven giraffes were floated to safety, leaving behind a mother named Nkarikoni and her baby Noelle. But on April 12, 2021, the mama and her little one took their freedom ride to their new home, too!
“We are thrilled to announce that all 9 #RukoGiraffe have been floated safely to the mainland!” SGN wrote on Instagram. “They are safely off their flooding island and at their new home, a 4,400-acre sanctuary at Ruko Community Conservancy, where they have been reunited and will live happily ever after!”
Experts say efforts like these are crucial if we hope to preserve endangered species like the Rothschild giraffe.
“With giraffes undergoing a silent extinction, every one we can protect matters, making this rescue an important step in supporting the survival of this species,” SGN president David O’Connor said.
This monthslong project is also significant because two communities in Kenya, Njemps and Pokot, have been locked in conflict for generations — yet they were still able to work together to help save the giraffes. Progress!
It took a lot of time, effort, and resources to save these animals, but they’re undeniably worth it! Thank you to everyone who is working to ensure that these incredible beasts continue to thrive in our beautiful world.
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