Four Giraffes Have Been Rafted To Safety While Five Wait On Flooding Island

It's not often a giraffe finds themselves on a raft. Image credit: Kieran Avery, Northern Rangelands Trust

An ambitious project has been unfolding in Kenya where conservationists are working hard to rescue a population of giraffes stuck on an island that is steadily shrinking. Ferrying them to safety however is complicated by the crocodile-infested waters that surround them, and so the team has had to build a special raft to keep the animals safe in transit. An unusual vehicle for these long-legged beauties, but evidently an effective one as last year we reported on the first animal to be successfully moved on board the Giraft (hehe, nice).

It’s a tale with big Noah energy, with a 44,000-acre wildlife sanctuary coming under threat as floods began shrinking the island on which it sat. To make matters worse, the ever-shrinking Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy, established in 2006, was home to a small population of Rothschild's giraffes – the most endangered giraffe species in the world. There are estimated to be just 1,669 of these animals left in the wild, 800 of which are confined to Kenya, so protecting each and every last one of them has long been a priority for conservationists.

The giraffes first arrived on Longicharo Island back in 2011 to live out their days on what was once a large landmass in Lake Baringo. However, intense flooding has seen the river reclaiming the land, putting both wildlife and resident humans at risk. A collaborative effort from the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Northern Rangelands Trust, and Save Giraffes Now has seen some of the animals successfully moved to safety onboard a raft fit for the enormous giraffes.

The latest move in the complex rescue operation saw a female giraffe named Awala arrive at the newly established Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy sanctuary on World Wildlife Day – 3 March 2021. Here, she was reunited with Asiwa and Easter, the first two giraffes rescued in December 2020, and Lbarnoti, a male who set sail in February.

giraffes raft
Sea legs aren't an adaptation associated with this species. Image credit: Kieran Avery, Northern Rangelands Trust

“We’re making great progress, but we won’t rest until the other five are safe at Ruko Conservancy, as well,” said David O’Connor, president of Save Giraffes Now in a press release emailed to IFLScience. “There has been a recent devastating decline of the giraffe population, but very few people are even aware they are endangered, so each one matters greatly.”

The five still waiting to be rafted to safety include a calf named Noelle who was born at Christmas, who will become the youngest giraffe to raft to RWC when the time comes. For now, she awaits rescue alongside her mother Nkarikoni, as well as Nasieku, Nalangu, and Susan.

If you’d like to help these giraffes and others protected by Save Giraffes Now, you can donate here.

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