Rescue efforts for endangered giraffes on an island in Lake Baringo, Baringo County, came to an end on Monday with the transportation of the last two animals to the mainland.
The island that has been home to nine Rothschild’s giraffes is being flooded with rising water in the lake.
Save Giraffes Now, a nonprofit organization that worked with various partners to make the rescue a success, announced on Monday, April 12 that the last two giraffes had been rescued.
“The last to catch the boat to their safe new home were little Noelle, a giraffe calf born at Christmastime, and her mother, Ngarikoni, due to the extra care needed to move such a young giraffe,” the organization said in a statement shared on its website.
The giraffes were sailed to a special sanctuary on the mainland on a barge made by local community members.
“Relief and elation emanated from the rescue team as little Noelle stepped confidently off the custom-built barge and onto dry land, followed by her mother, marking the successful conclusion of this ambitious rescue,” Save Giraffes Now added.
The 15-month project to rescue the giraffe from their shrinking island in Lake Baringo took more than a year to plan and complete, the organization says.
To successfully execute the rescue, the Dallas-based organization worked closely with the Ruko Community Conservancy, the Northern Rangelands Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Part of the plan involved sketching out the innovative rescue, from designing and building the barge (named “The GiRaft”) to creating a 4,400-acre sanctuary on the mainland for the animals.
Ruko rangers worked hard to get each animal used to the barge beforehand, leaving their favorite 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.
Each gangly giraffe boarded the steel barge, which then piloted approximately one mile to a 4,400-acre fenced sanctuary within the 44,000-acre Ruko Conservancy.
The steel barge was designed specifically to carry tall, heavy giraffe. It floats atop 60 empty drums, for buoyancy, and reinforced sides kept the giraffe safe inside as the barge was gently pulled along by boats.
Water levels in Lake Baringo have been rising for some time, but in 2020 the rate increased – flooding lakeshore homes, businesses, and threatening the lives of the small group of Rothschild’s giraffe on Longicharo Island, in Ruko Community Conservancy.
This forced the organization and its partners to swing into action for the noble project to rescue the endangered species of giraffes.
About 2,100 Rothschild’s giraffes exist in Africa today, of which just 800 live in Kenya.
The critically endangered animals once inhabited the entire Western Rift Valley in Kenya and Uganda, but loss of habitat and poaching has significantly reduced their numbers.