Wildlife authorities have relocated at least critically endangered giraffes to Kenya’s mainland from their home on an island that is fast ‘disappearing’ due to rising waters, completing a 15-month operation during which 7 more animals were transported to safety.
The latest to be rescued were a tall mother and her tiny calf - both were floated on a specially designed barge separately over Lake Baringo, a video of the complex operation showed. Sixty empty drums were used to build the barge and its sides were reinforced to prevent the lanky animals from falling overboard.
The video showed a number of wildlife officials helping the giraffe walk into the barge and then closing its gate. The barge is pulled by a tugboat on the muddied waters and it then reaches the mainland park, about a mile away. As the gate opens, the mother giraffe sprints out of it into the wild to be with other ruminants. The calf, which was reportedly born in December, is then rescued in a similar manner.
As few as 800 Rothschild’s giraffes now exist in Kenya. These critically endangered animals once lived in the entire Western Rift Valley in Kenya and Uganda, but the loss of habitat and poaching has reduced their numbers significantly.
Northern Rangelands Trust have been spearheading efforts to rescue critically endangered giraffes from a sinking island of Lake Baringo which is among lakes affected by rising water levels in Rift Valley lakes pic.twitter.com/nr1D6SZ8Xp— Northern Frontier People of Kenya (@Frontierpeople) April 15, 2021
Lake Baringo, which is now reducing in the area because of rising water levels, plays an important role in sustaining the local population and economy by attracting tourists and provides a home for several wildlife species. But excess rainfall due to climate change has led to lakes of Rift Valley rising to levels not seen in 50 years, damaging houses, habitats, and parks. Conservationists hope to populate the park with more such giraffes brought there from other regions in Kenya.
The first giraffe was floated off the island in December 2020 under this operation, led by the non-profit Save Giraffes Now, which aims to protect giraffes from extinction so they can live freely in the woodlands and savannas of their native Africa.