Critically endangered Rothschild Giraffe rescued from ‘disappearing’ Island

The giraffe was moved to the mainland of the conservancy, amid rising lake levels.

In Summary

• Today, fewer than 3,000 Rothschild’s giraffes are left in Africa, with about 800 in Kenya.

• Seven giraffes remain on the island. Two are due to be moved over the next few days, the rest in the next few months.

The giraffe being moved. Image:Courtesy.
The giraffe being moved. Image:Courtesy.

The Kenya Wildlife Service and Ruko Community Conservancy have moved one Rothschild’s giraffe from Longicharo Island, on the eastern shores of Lake Baringo.

The giraffe was moved to the mainland of the conservancy, as rising lake levels threaten the animal’s future.

The move was done through a partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust and the US nonprofit Save Giraffes Now.

Seven giraffes remain on the island.


Two are due to be moved over the next few days, the rest in the next few months.

The giraffes were originally moved to Ruko in 2011, in a bid to reintroduce Rothschild’s giraffe, also known as the Baringo giraffe, back to their endemic range.

Today, fewer than 3,000 Rothschild’s giraffes are left in Africa, with about 800 in Kenya.

The giraffe came to epitomise the transformational impact of nurturing peace through the community conservation model, as the previously conflicting Il Chamus and Pokot communities came together under one community conservancy – Ruko - to protect them.

“The re-introduction of the Baringo giraffe in 2011 to the island has been very critical, we welcomed the efforts to allow the species to come back home where it belongs and be a catalyst in part of lager efforts of finding lasting peace between the two communities. We set aside our differences to protect this unique species, of which less than thousand remain in Kenya,” says Rebby Sebei, manager of Ruko Community Conservancy.

Approval to move the giraffes to a purpose-built sanctuary on the mainland was granted by KWS after lake levels started to rise by an estimated six inches a day, turning the giraffe’s original home into an ever-shrinking island, with remaining food sources becoming scarce.

The Ruko giraffe also has faced challenges in breeding.


Eight calves have been born, but just two have survived.

The others are thought to have been lost to python predation, nutritional deficiencies and other natural causes – further necessitating the need for them to be moved.

The giraffes are being moved by a rectangular barge, custom-built by the Ruko community out of steel and designed to float on top of a series of empty drums for buoyancy.

It has tall reinforced sides to keep the giraffes from jumping out while being tugged by boats.

" The survival of these giraffes is critical to our ongoing efforts to implement the National Giraffe Recovery Strategy to 2020-2025,” said Dr Patrick Omondi, KWS Director of Biodiversity Research and Planning.

“At the sanctuary, they are safe from the rising waters and they will be protected from predators, poachers and other threats.”

Ruko Conservancy rangers have been supplementing the animal’s food while conducting routine health checks.

They have been using mangoes, a favourite treat, to train them to board the barge voluntarily, eliminating the need for sedation.

Lake Baringo is among the four lakes (Nakuru, Bogoria and Naivasha) lying on the floor of the Rift Valley that is experiencing an unprecedented rise in water levels.

“Each giraffe has its own personality,” said Susan Myers, founder and CEO of Save Giraffes Now, that has been working closely with Ruko.

“Some are very timid, while others are brave and go onto the barge readily. This is a painstaking process, and the team has been very deliberate about the training.”

The adult female giraffe that was moved on Wednesday is Asiwa.

Two juvenile females, Susan and Pasaka (also known as Easter) are scheduled to be moved later this week.

The four remaining adult females, Nkarikoni, Nalangu, Awala and Nasieku, and one adult male, Lbarnnoti, will be moved early next year.

Asiwa travelled well and is now getting accustomed to her new location, food and landscape in a smaller section of the 17.7 square kilometres predator-proof sanctuary, located within 44,000 hectares of Ruko Community Conservancy mainland.

This will be the protocol for each giraffe moved.

As they settle, the team from Ruko will then slowly release them into ever-larger areas of the sanctuary, where they’ll join other giraffes that will be re-introduced in future.

“We continue to strive, work with community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya, to enable them to be resilient while sustaining their livelihoods. The exercise was a success, and we thank all partners who continue to support our noble cause through the community conservation model, a game-changer in conservation not only in Kenya but also in the south of Africa,” says Aloise Naitirra Northern Rangelands Trust’s Baringo County Director.

The giraffes are not only a symbol of unity but have also provided the Ruko communities with a valuable tourism opportunity.

Prior to Covid-19 pandemic, the conservancy welcomed about 500 guests yearly, approximately 200 of whom were school children coming from as far as Nairobi to see the giraffes.

To increase tourism earnings, the conservancy has boat tours around the conservation area, raising awareness and opening the market for local entrepreneurs and youth groups around the island to sell beaded items and other wares.

Any tourism earnings received are split 60: 40 with 40per cent funding conservancy operations and the 60 per cent split equally amongst the two communities in the region for healthcare and education.

Since the conservancy’s inception over 300 bursaries have been provided to schoolchildren from both communities.

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