Last of nine Giraffes trapped in shrinking island rescued

Ruko Community Conservancy and The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have successfully rescued the last giraffe trapped on a shrinking island and released her into a community-run sanctuary on the mainland.

The successful conclusion of an ambitious rescue effort that started in December 2020, ending on Friday, 9th April 2021 was led by the local community and saved nine Rothschild’s giraffes from a disappearing island in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

“Water levels in Lake Baringo have been rising for some time, but in 2020 the rate of rise increased – flooding lakeshore homes, businesses, and threatening the lives of a small group of Rothschild giraffes on Longicharo Island, in Ruko Community Conservancy,”

Ruko Community Conservancy manager Rebby Sebei says Rothschild giraffes initially moved to the conservancy in 2011 in a bid to reintroduce the species also known as the Baringo giraffe, back to their endemic range.

This was after the Kenya Wildlife Service granted permission for eight Rothschild giraffes to be moved to Ruko for a community led conservation initiative

Ruko Community Conservancy was established after the Chamus and Pokot communities, seeking an end to years of conflict, came together to form a community conservancy that would provide a platform for collaborative governance, peace, equitable benefit sharing, and conservation.

It was registered in 2006, and while it’s wholly owned by the communities, it’s a member of the Northern Rangelands Trust – a network of community conservancies across northern Kenya.

“Ruko is an example of how much peace is linked to everything else – conservation, livelihoods, business, gender equality, governance, it all starts with peace,” Sebei said.

The community set aside 1,770 hectares of the 44,000-hectare Ruko Community Conservancy to build a new giraffe sanctuary on the mainland to continue with rescue efforts.

The giraffe in the mainland Sanctuary are thriving, with the rangers reporting that they have never seen their giraffe look so healthy and happy. There is no need for any food supplementation here, which is set to save the Conservancy a lot of money and ensure healthier animals.

With nine giraffes (one male) safely on the mainland, Ruko and the Kenya Wildlife Service are looking to the future.

“KWS is keen to grow the numbers of Rothschild giraffe in the country. The management of Ruko Sanctuary in collaboration with the local community has done a commendable job in efforts to conserve this rare species. Indeed Ruko Sanctuary is a model conservation initiative worth replicating elsewhere” Senior Veterinary Officer for the Kenya Wildlife Service Dr. Isaac Lekolool said.

The long-term plan is to introduce other giraffe from elsewhere in Kenya, in order to build up a genetically healthy population of giraffe in the sanctuary, which has a carrying capacity of around 50 animals, that can eventually be released into the greater Rift Valley ecosystem.

“The Ruko community buy-in to this project has been so strong, they see the many opportunities that can come from the Sanctuary, and it shows that community-led conservation in Kenya can balance the needs of the Kenya’s wildlife, with the needs of our people,” Baringo County Conservancies Director for the Northern Rangelands Trust Aloise Naitira said.


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