Giraffe octet take to Kenyan waters in very special trip home

Wildlife news can become bogged down in stories about the biggest, baddest of safari predators (and, sadly, their number one predator – humans). We hear about hefty vegetarians such as the threatened rhinoceros or elephant, all tusks and larger-than-life size, or the faster than a bullet cheetah. Every now and then, however, a story comes along that reminds you there is life beyond the huge, wide, fast, and heavy safari stars.


In this case, it takes a turn for the tall.

Endangered species the Rothschild Giraffe recently made a notable return to Kenya’s Lake Baringo, and the welcoming arms of its historical homeland. This subspecies of giraffe is only a few hundred members strong, and is among the tallest of the giraffe subspecies, measuring in at up to six metres in certain cases. This giraffe remains visually distinct from its genetic “cousins” in a few regards:


* Their colouring is generally paler than that of the Reticulated Giraffe (closest to it in terms of looks), with less defined orange-brown patches, and a softer colouring in the connective channel between patches.


* In addition to the standard two horns on any giraffe’s head, the Rothschild sports a centered, raised horn on its forehead, and two smaller horns behind its ears – making five horns in total.


* They also display no markings (of the normal variety) on their lower legs, their unmarked fur giving the impression of their wearing knee socks or stockings.


In a joint operation between Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and the Ruko Conservancy, eight of these magnificent creatures were recently transferred, via lorry and then by barge from Soysambu Conservancy to Lake Baringo, Kenya. This particular relocation is extremely important to the area, as the Rothschild Giraffe has been missing here for years.


Also known as the Ugandan or Baringo giraffe, these animals have died out as far as they have largely due to the receding of their natural habitats. Breeding programs have since brought their numbers up from the dismal 130 of 1974, but there is still some way to go to bringing them back to full capacity. Returning them to this community-owned sanctuary shows huge commitment on behalf of stakeholders, and would hopefully be the first of many steps towards fully integrating this animal back into its native area.


To view a full set of photographs depicting these animals and their extraordinary trip across Lake Baringo, visit:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/13/giraffes-in-a-boat-8-take_n_822015.html#s238759

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