March 18, 2011 | 2
It has been 70 years since Rothschild giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), aka Baringo giraffes, disappeared from the Lake Baringo area of Kenya that gave them one of their names. But now eight of these critically endangered animals have returned to the lake, and with them comes an unexpected bonus: a promise of peace.
According to a report from Kenya’s The Standard, the Pokot and Njemps peoples have been at war for centuries “in endless fights over cattle, pasture and water,” resulting in “blood-spilling orgies of violence.”
Elders from the two communities met recently, conducted unity prayers, and promised to end the violence between them. Their incentive: tourism and jobs. Lake Baringo is a popular destination for bird-watchers, but constant conflict has kept tourists away from what is known as the Baringo District where the Pokot and Njemps people live. The elders say that they hope the presence of the endangered giraffes will bring more visitors to the area.
Already, the presence of the giraffes has created jobs. More than 100 people have been employed to provide security for the animals.
Rothschild giraffes disappeared from the area in the 1940s following an extended drought and a history of poaching.
It was the Njemps elders who came up with the idea to bring giraffes back to Lake Baringo four years ago. They approached the nearby Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy (RCWC), a 19,000-acre wildlife sanctuary which is already home to numerous other species and had already relocated a herd of impala to the area.
With the help of the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Northern Rangelands Trust, the RCWC acquired eight giraffes from the Soysambu Conservancy, also in Kenya, and began the difficult task of relocating the giraffes. It wasn’t easy: it started with a six-hour truck ride, then an hour-and-a-half ferry ride across Lake Baringo, with the latter marking the first time that giraffes have traveled by water in Kenya.
The four male and four female giraffes now have been at Lake Baringo since February 7 and are reportedly adapting well to their new environment.
Rothschild giraffes are critically endangered, with only about 670 of the animals left in the world. RCWC hopes the eight giraffes will start breeding and give bird to a new population at their historic Lake Baringo home.