NAIROBI, March 4 – Rescuers have succeeded in moving to safety another giraffe marooned in a flooded island on Lake Baringo in the Kenyan Rift Valley, bringing to four the number of giraffes saved since December.
The rescue operation from Longicharo Island is being carried out by partners of United States-based non-profit, Save Giraffes Now. Five more giraffes remain on the island and must be rescued soon, the rescuers said in a press release. Those remaining include the beloved calf named Noelle who was born during the Christmas holidays in 2020 and would be the youngest ever moved in the ongoing operation.
“We’re making great progress, but we won’t rest until the others are safe at Ruko Conservancy, as well,” said David O’Connor, president of Save Giraffes Now. “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.”
Remaining on the island are Nkarikoni, her baby Noelle, Nasieku, Nalangu, and young Susan. The team urgently wants to move them to safety, as young giraffes are particularly susceptible to predators, a lack of food, and other dangers. About half of all giraffe calves do not survive to their first birthday, and two calves on the island already have been lost.
“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. “We remain hopeful to finish these rescues as quickly as possible.”
The rescues are an international collaboration among Save Giraffes Now, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), and the Ruko Community. The concept of creating the sanctuary and moving the stranded giraffes had been discussed for years. But in February 2020, the situation had become critical, as the giraffe had limited food on the shrinking island.
Upon hearing of the worsening crisis, Save Giraffes Now founder Myers met with NRT and Ruko Conservancy officials. At that meeting, she pledged approximately 64 per cent of the total costs to help create the giraffe sanctuary and move the animals at last. That donation allowed NRT to begin constructing the sanctuary. The Sidekick Foundation contributed about 24 per cent of the cost and two US zoos chipped in with the remaining 12 per cent.
Save Giraffes Now, the world’s second-largest non-profit focused solely on giraffe conservation, has to date contributed two-thirds of the cost of the project. The charity also supports giraffe projects in eight other African countries.
The giraffe arrived on the mainland from Longicharo Island, a rocky lava pinnacle studded with acacia trees. They were originally reintroduced to the peninsula in 2011, in hopes that the isolated location would provide shelter from poaching and increase the population in their native western Kenyan range.
Over the past several years, the water level of Lake Baringo has been rising and it became imperative to move these Rothschild’s (Nubian) giraffe, a dwindling subspecies of the Northern giraffe that once roamed the entire western Rift Valley in Kenya and into Uganda. Today, fewer than 3,000 are left in Africa, with only about 800 in Kenya.
The move is one of several community-led conservation fieldwork projects supported by Save Giraffes Now, a non-profit started in Dallas in 2019 by Myers. The organisation focuses on immediate, on-the-ground action to save and protect endangered giraffes across Africa from extinction.