Flow Scales

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Eight endangered giraffes trapped on a shrinking island in the middle of a flooding lake is peril enough, but the water was infested with crocodiles.

Racing into action were conservationists, government officials, and local community members of Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya to try and construct a “giraffe-raft” in order to ferry them across the lake to safety on higher ground.

Making it ever more urgent, the stranded giraffes were of the endangered Rothschild’s subspecies, numbering only 1,600 animals left in the wild.

Longicharo Island in Lake Baringo wasn’t always an island, but rather a peninsula that split apart after years of intense flooding. The giraffes arrived in 2011, brought by park rangers who believed it was a danger-free place. They kept them fed and healthy, traveling the river by boat.

Finally, with more flooding on the horizon, authorities agreed that, with the island continuing to shrink, the threat of losing the valuable animals was too great.

Operation Giraffe Raft
One of the tallest and widest of their species, building the giraffe-raft required imagination and planning. It would have to be a strong craft—balanced fore and aft.

Rothschild’s giraffes can stand up to 20 feet tall (5.8 meters) and weigh up to 2,500 pounds (1,133 kilograms). Furthermore, their high center of gravity meant that it would be particularly dangerous to keep them upright in a boat, especially if the sight of a crocodile got them spooked.

For several months, the rangers familiarized the giraffes with the rescue craft on land until recently when the team sedated Asiwa, an adult female, and covered her eyes to make the trip successfully.

Gizmodo had an email exchange with David O’Connor, President of Save Giraffes Now, the non-profit that participated in the daring rescue. He described the rectangular steel pen that was designed specifically for the occasion.

“The barge floats atop a series of empty drums, for buoyancy. Reinforced sides kept Asiwa from jumping out as the barge was gently maneuvered by boats,” he explained.

“Asiwa, has always been a priority for the team on the ground, as she was the most vulnerable,” reads the triumphant Instagram post by Save The Giraffes “It is a relief for all involved to have got her safely across to the mainland and we are sure she is enjoying the space in her new home!”

Asiwa is now on dry land and awaits the other giraffes that will join her on a special 4,400-acre reservation with high, secure fencing that should keep them safe from predators and poachers alike.