Eight rare giraffes are being rescued in a risky operation in Kenya after becoming trapped on an island by crocodile-infested flooding. One of the 16-foot-tall giraffes was successfully floated to safety by an international team of conservationists, animal specialists, and local community members utilizing a specially manufactured steel barge. The remaining seven giraffes are now in a “life or death” position, according to Texas-based conservation non-profit Save Giraffes Now, and there is now a race against time to save them.
The animals are part of the Rothschild’s (Nubian) giraffes, an endangered subspecies of the Northern giraffe that is thought to number no more than 800 in Kenya and 2,000 over the entire continent.
In 2011, the giraffes were transferred to a region near Lake Baringo in western Kenya in the hopes that the remote location would provide them with safety from poaching and enable their population to increase. The lake’s waters have recently been rising steadily at a rate of up to six inches per day due to recent heavy rains, closing off the area where the giraffes were previously stranded.
In response, a rescue operation to preserve the animals and move them to a 4,400-acre gated sanctuary about four miles away has been mounted by the Kenya Wildlife Service, Save Giraffes Now, Kenyan non-profit Northern Rangelands Trust, and local members of the Ruko community.
Conservationists have been feeding the giraffes and maintaining routine health checks on them since the newly formed island was cut off from the surrounding land. In the interim, members of the Ruko neighborhood constructed a unique boat to save the animals. The giraffes are prevented from jumping out of the barge by reinforced sidewalls on a series of empty drums that support a rectangular steel structure. On a different area of the recently built island, Asiwa, one of the giraffes, was abandoned by herself on Wednesday. The rescue crew employed this special barge to rescue her.
“The rescue is thankfully off to a great start because Asiwa was the most endangered giraffe and was left alone on a flooded island with less than an acre of land. The Ruko neighborhood is overjoyed that she is again secure. I hope the upcoming days go similarly “According to Newsweek, Save Giraffes Now’s president, David O’Connor. The team hopes to save the remaining giraffes over the next few weeks, and two more will be relocated tomorrow. The need to carry out this rescue is urgent, according to O’Connor’s statement.
“This is the best outcome we could have hoped for, and we can’t wait to relocate the others shortly. Every giraffe we can save is important because they are slowly going extinct.