What does it take to move 21 giraffes to safety?
One tractor, one specially designed giraffe trolley, one customised giraffe truck, 25 experienced wildlife handlers from KWS including four veterinarians and weeks of careful planning. Not to mention importing specialised drugs, talking to community members, training a support team and preparing a fleet of vehicles – the hard work that goes into such an operation is immense. In the months leading up to the translocation, a KWS research scientist monitored the giraffes’ behaviour and movements, ensuring there really was a need for relocation.
It takes incredible teamwork to move 21 giraffes to safety
How were the giraffes captured?
Wild giraffes are one of the most challenging species to safely immobilise and translocate.
A giraffe’s kick has the power to decapitate a lion and can strike in any direction without warning, making their capture a dangerous and highly skilled exercise.
Setting out at dawn to avoid the heat of the day, the KWS capture team, made up of four vets and a ground team, first track the giraffes. Correctly estimating the size and weight is vital to give the correct dose of sedative. One of the vets darts the giraffe with a powerful drug which takes between five and ten minutes to work. Once the giraffe is down, the vet team moves in at lightning speed. Administering a reversal drug within seconds is crucial to avoid risk of suffocation or choking due to a giraffe’s unique anatomy. At this point, a blindfold is fitted to keep the animal calm.
Working quickly to get the giraffe back on its feet
Within minutes, the giraffe is awake again and it’s all hands on deck. Its head is carefully supported whilst several people hold its neck down – a surprisingly easy way to restrain such a large animal. Meanwhile, a full health check is carried out which includes stool and blood samples and treating any wounds. Another team work swiftly to arrange ropes around its body and legs which will be used to guide it up, while a scientist records GPS coordinates of the capture along with age, gender and other details.
‘The teamwork, commitment and expertise of the KWS team was phenomenal to watch. It’s dangerous and physically exhausting work. The way they coordinated the whole operation was impressive.’
~ Gary Hopcraft, Loldia Farm
How were the giraffes transported?
Within a few minutes of being darted, woken up and treated by the veterinary team, the giraffes are guided back onto their feet and into a custom-made giraffe trolley. Watching the KWS team at work as they juggle a network of ropes makes this look like a smoothly choreographed operation. Whilst the team have done this thousands of times before, manoeuvring a fully grown wild giraffe (which is wide awake) is never simple. Each giraffe has a mind of its own and keeps everyone on their toes. The Safari Collection director, Mikey Carr-Harltey, and Gary Hopcraft from Loldia Farm were both on hand to assist and even the team visiting from Giraffe Manor got stuck in at times.