9 Endangered Giraffes Rescued From Flooded Kenyan Island By Community-Built “Giraft”

All nine endangered Rothschild’s giraffes are safe!

The rescue effort began in early 2020 when conservationist realized the rising waters of Lake Baringo had flooded the Kenyan island the giraffes called home, and drastically depleted their food supply.

Save Giraffes Now, a non-profit determined to save giraffe from extinction, teamed up with Kenya Wildlife Service, the Northern Rangelands Trust and the Ruko Community to remove the stranded giraffes and return them to their ancestral lands – for the first time in 70 years.

Photo: Northern Rangelands Trust

Rothschild’s (Nubian) giraffe population has declined by over 80%, leaving only 3,000 in the wild and 800 in Kenya, according to Save Giraffes Now.

“We feel a great sense of urgency to complete this rescue,” said David O’Connor, president of Save Giraffes Now. “With giraffe undergoing a silent extinction, every one we can protect matters.”

Photo: Northern Rangelands Trust

Local tribes put their conflicts aside to establish the Ruko Community Conservancy, dedicated to the reintroduction and protection of giraffes.

Together, they built a custom barge named “The Giraft” to safely float the giraffes to the 4,400-acre sanctuary at Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy.

One by one, the giraffes were removed from the island starting with the most imperiled – until only two remained.

Ngarikoni and her calf, Noelle, born in December were the last giraffes rescued. Noelle was the youngest calf ever moved, so the rescue team wanted to give her as much time to grow as possible.

Photo: Northern Rangelands Trust

“We’re thrilled Noelle is healthy and developing nicely – she is now 7 feet tall! – but we must continue to keep her safe until she is big enough to move, which is thankfully fast approaching,” said Susan Myers, the founder and CEO of Save Giraffes Now.

To make the trip to the mainland as smooth as possible, the rescue team left the “Giraft” docked at the island and enticed the giraffes to come onboard with food. The plan had worked well for the lone bull, Lbarnoti. “The big male walked calmly onto the barge, and never stopped eating acacia seed pods on the whole trip!”

The day had finally come to rescue Noelle and her mom, and it was a huge success! Noelle is seen running off the barge and into the sanctuary to rejoin her tower (group of giraffes).

The exciting news was shared on Instagram with the caption, “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!”

Photo: Kieran Avery

Save Giraffes Now is thrilled to have been part of the rescue. “What an accomplishment not only saving these giraffe, but in also reintroducing them to the mainland for the first time in 70 years! We couldn’t be happier to be part of this.”

But their work is far from over. Along with the community, they will continue to protect the giraffes as they breed with the hope that someday they will “repopulate the Eastern Rift…eventually rejoining their cousins in Uganda!”

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Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast who resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.
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