Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Heads held high

Giraffe relocation - photo BFF Kenya
What a spectacle! The giraffe cross Lake Baringo, on their way to their new home

With just 670 Rothchild’s giraffes remaining, the survival of this vulnerable species relies on dramatic action.  Shelley Waterland reports on giraffes on the move. 

Rothschild’s giraffes, first described by Lord Walter Rothschild following his expedition to East Africa in the early 1900s, used to be widespread across Sudan, Uganda and western Kenya.  Sadly, since that time, numbers have plummeted and their range dramatically reduced – they are now extinct in Sudan and no more than 670 individuals remain in isolated parts of Kenya and in one park in Uganda.  They are a very rare and precious species indeed, requiring urgent and concerted efforts to protect them from any further decline.

Rothschild’s giraffes were eradicated from the Baringo area of Kenya more than 40 years ago, following extensive poaching for their meat.  Other wildlife species were also very hard hit and suffered steep declines.  However, in recent years, the community in the Ruko region of Baringo decided to do something to restore their wild environment, and with the help of the Northern Rangelands Trust, they formed the Ruko Conservancy. 

Part of the plan to re-establish the former glory of this important wildlife area, has been to translocate a small number of Rothschild’s giraffe to Ruko, thereby reintroducing the species to a part of its former and now protected range.  This initiative took a number of years to develop and be approved – every minute detail had to be considered.  When working with such a rare species, nothing can be left to chance!

Finally, earlier this year, the dates were set and meticulous plans kicked into action.  The translocation was a collaborative effort between the Kenya Wildlife Service, Northern Rangelands Trust and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.  It was made possible due to funds from Tusk Trust and YOU, our wonderful Born Free supporters, not least our loyal ‘Giraffe Family’ adopters.

Born Free also supported the pre-release monitoring of the operation, which included the identification of suitable giraffes that could cope with the move.  Eight giraffes were eventually identified – two males and six females.  They were captured in Soysambu Conservancy, near Nakuru.  The giraffe were kept in Soysambu, in a holding boma (enclosure) for three weeks, to ensure they were strong enough for travel and not suffering from any disease or injury. 

Then, at last, in early February, the journey to Ruko began.  The first leg took place by road, at night-time, to minimise stress for the giraffe.  The route had been carefully planned to ensure there were no obstacles along the way for such tall animals, such as low-hanging overhead power cables.

The second and final stage of the journey was even more dramatic – the giraffes were transported to Ruko Conservancy across Lake Baringo, in a specially adapted high-sided boat.

The extraordinary spectacle took the breath away of Born Free Kenya’s new manager Iregi Mwenja. “It was quite an unusual sight - to see the heads of the world’s tallest mammal sticking out the top of a 14 foot high crate,” he exclaimed.  “The crate was attached to two motorised boats, cautiously travelling over the water to the giraffes’ new home in Ruko Conservancy.”

Rothschild Giraffes - photo BFF kenya
The giraffe can decide when they’re ready to leave their holding boma

We are delighted to report the whole operation has been a great success.  The giraffes are now going to be slowly introduced to their new environment before they are fully released.  The bomas in which they are being housed will be gradually expanded in size, and then finally opened up at one side – so that the giraffes can decide for themselves when to take their first steps to freedom in their new home.

Born Free would like to sincerely thank the supporters of the Ruko giraffe move for all their generosity (and patience!).  None of this would have been possible without you all.  Born Free is supporting the post-release monitoring of the giraffes at Ruko.

See a video of the exciting translocation below


It was made possible due to our wonderful giraffe adopters

Make a donation to Born Free's giraffe work here

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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