GIRAFFES ON THE MOVE

If you happened to have been driving from Nairobi to western Kenya last month, then you might have come across a rather surprising and unusual sight. Three of our striking Rothschild’s giraffes on the move, making the journey to their new home in Rimoi National Park. Indeed, most bystanders couldn’t believe their eyes! Drivers stared, open mouthed. School children on buses jumped and waved.

For many onlookers, it was the first time they had seen the world’s tallest mammal, albeit popping out from the top of a truck on the highway.

Checking out a giraffe for the first time!

For Lily, Alizeti and Jock VIII, this journey signalled the end of their Giraffe Manor chapter, where they were born and have grown up, and the beginning of a new life in the wild. As with many people who witnessed this incredible translocation in action, we’re sure you have lots of questions, so we’ve done our best to answer them…

An unusual sight in town

Why were the giraffes moved from Giraffe Manor?

Giraffe Manor has been a breeding centre for endangered Rothschild’s giraffes longer than it’s been a hotel. Its previous owners founded the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) Giraffe Centre to protect this former endangered, (now threatened) species. Since its founding, over 50 Rothschild’s giraffes from the AFEW Giraffe Centre and Giraffe Manor have been released to repopulate their species in the wild.

Stopping for fuel in Nakuru created quite a stir!

Therefore, when our tower of twigas recently reached a healthy size of 16, it was a natural decision for some of the younger herd members to move on. Plus, with three new calves born of late and Betty’s bundle arriving imminently, the herd had reached maximum capacity for the 150-acre sanctuary.

This was the first time in the history of the manor that we were able to document and share the whole giraffe translocation.

Why were Lily, Alizeti and Jock VIII chosen?

Aside from our teeny tiny babies recently born, these three twigas were our youngest giraffes. Lily is four and a half, and Alizeti and Jock are both one and half. In the wild, males tend to ‘leave home’ at around 15 months, whilst females usually stay with their mothers until around 18 months, so these guys were ready to fly the nest.

Enjoying the ride © Freddy Emmerich

All three are offspring of our dominant male, Edd. With Lily getting ready for breeding, it was time to move her away from her father. Jock was also beginning to take after his mum, Kelly, a little too much – she’s well known at the manor for being quite boisterous with her powerful neck.

Getting ready for departure

How were the giraffes moved?

The giraffes made the journey by road, riding the highway with the wind in their ossicones! Coaxing them into the truck required some patience, but with tasty pellets on offer they were soon tempted inside.

All set to go

Once safely secured in the truck with food and water, they quickly settled and remained calm for the journey. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) vehicles escorted the truck all the way and watched as all three giraffes seemed to enjoy all the fresh air in their faces!

Setting off from Giraffe Manor

Was the move distressing for the giraffes?

The three giraffes were accompanied by their familiar keepers for the journey. They had water, treats and experts, including vets experienced in giraffe translocation, on hand to ensure they were calm and happy. AFEW carried out the translocation in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Both organisations have years of experience in translocations and would not jeopardise the safety of these precious animals.

Cruising

How will they cope in the wild?

Believe it or not, Lily, Alizeti and Jock have been preparing for this moment their entire lives! At Giraffe Manor and the Giraffe Centre where they were born and have grown up, they roam freely in a 150-acre forested sanctuary which is very much a wild space. They also browse for most of their food on the indigenous trees, just as they would in the wild. The natural alfalfa pellets fed to them by visitors are supplementary to their diet and given in strictly controlled quantities.

Snack break

Much to their disappointment, the giraffes at the manor don’t have unlimited access to our pellets! As such, they are perfectly accustomed to foraging for their own food in the forest. Moreover, there are no large predators at Rimoi National Reserve and these three will be joining an existing herd of Rothschild’s giraffes who are thriving there already.

Will they be happy in their new home?

With 16,000 acres of protected wildlife area in which to roam, we have no doubt that our three twigas will love the browsing variety and space of their new home. With each other as company, they form their own little herd. Moreover, as Lily is four and the other two are one and a half years old, these three are more than old enough to look out for themselves.

On the road

How will you keep track of them in the wild?

Although these giraffes were not tagged, they will be closely monitored in their new home by a team of rangers and guides from Rimoi National Reserve. The reserve is relatively small with excellent wildlife monitoring already established.

How was Rimoi National Reserve chosen as their new home?

Rimoi is small park in western Kenya, with an existing herd of Rothschild’s giraffes already thriving there. In 2015, Elgeyo Marakwet County Government and KWS collaborated to rehabilitate the reserve. It is now home to over 400 elephants and a wide diversity of smaller mammals, reptiles and birdlife, as well as giraffes of course!

Time to explore

As the truck opened at the end of the journey and Lily, Alizeti and Jock stepped out into their new home, we felt overcome with emotion.

Their release marked a momentous achievement for giraffe conservation, but our entire team shall miss them dearly.

We have known and loved each of them since birth; Lily’s calm and gentle spirit, Jock’s boisterous teatime visits and Alizeti’s curiosity. However, this is an exciting opportunity for these iconic African mammals and we are counting down the days until we visit them to check on their progress.

If you’d like to help save giraffes across Africa, then you can sponsor one of our friendly giraffes here at the manor.

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