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Community Built Raft To Rescue Giraffes From Flooded Island in Kenya

The custom barge which was used to save the giraffes is truly an engineering marvel.

Community Built Raft To Rescue Giraffes From Flooded Island in Kenya
Rescue team members join Asiwa as the barge makes the approximately 4-mile journey to the conservancy. Ami Vitale / Save Giraffes Now

A remarkable rescue operation has taken place in Kenya thanks to the efforts of the wildlife conservationists who braved crocodile-infested waters to rescue the critically endangered Nubian giraffes.

Conservationists, government officials, and local community members united their forces to start a daring rescue of eight endangered giraffes trapped on a flooded island; and with some of the giraffes successfully saved; the remaining will be ferried away in the coming weeks and months.

Intense flooding threatened the endangered animals

The Nubian giraffes, with only 1,600 of them left in the wild, were sent to Longicharo Island in Lake Baringo in 2011 over fears they would be targeted by poachers. However, the remote area was not always an island, but actually, a peninsula, that was split after years of intense flooding. Brought by park rangers, the giraffes were kept fed and healthy.

However, now they've become stranded from the mainland after recent intense rainfall threatened both the nearby wildlife and local villages. With more flooding on the horizon, authorities decided that the endangered animals had to be saved before the point of return was passed.

Locals built a custom barge

The Kenya Wildlife Service, the Northern Rangelands Trust, and the nonprofit organization Save Giraffes Now needed a boat to make sure the giraffes were ferried to safety. The locals were the ones who built the custom barge for the mission.

Community Built Raft To Rescue Giraffes From Flooded Island in Kenya
Asiwa in the barge as it is gently moved toward the safety of the conservancy. Source: Ami Vitale / Save Giraffes Now

This wasn't an easy project though. The Nubian giraffes can stand up to 20 feet tall (5.8 meters) and weigh up to 2,500 pounds (1,133 kilograms), which meant keeping them upright with their high center of gravity made everything more dangerous. However, the custom barge, according to David O’Connor, president of Save Giraffes Now, has turned out to be an engineering marvel.

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Community Built Raft To Rescue Giraffes From Flooded Island in Kenya
David O’Connor, president of Save Giraffes Now, monitors Asiwa. Source: Ami Vitale / Save Giraffes Now

"The rectangular steel structure was designed and built specifically to carry tall, heavy giraffe," he said in an email to Gizmodo. "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."

The conversationalists braved the crocodile-ridden waters

Asiwa was the first giraffe that was escorted back to safety. It is easy for an animal to get spooked from a ride, so the team spent months familiarizing the animals with the barge. During the rescue mission, Asiwa's eyes were covered and she was sedated as she was led to the barge with ropes.

"We sailed Asiwa over a mile of crocodile-ridden waters to the newly established Ruko giraffe sanctuary, and our team was there the whole way to ensure Asiwa was safe," O’Connor wrote to Gizmodo

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Community Built Raft To Rescue Giraffes From Flooded Island in Kenya
Cheers erupt as Asiwa was successfully moved from the flooded rangeland to the safety of the conservancy. Source: Ami Vitale / Save Giraffes Now

Now, with Susan and Asiwa saved, the four remaining adult females, Nkarikoni, Nalangu, Awala and Nasieku, one adult male, Lbarnnoti, and juvenile female Pasaka are waiting to be moved early next year, per Independent

SEE ALSO: LAST KNOWN WHITE GIRAFFE IN WORLD WAS FITTED WITH GPS TRACKING DEVICE

With more operations underway, you can consider helping move the remaining giraffes by donating here.  

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