By Lucy Harvey
Moving a group of wild animals 500 miles to safety was always going to be a tall order for conservationists.
But when the animals are giraffes, the logistics become just a little more complicated.
Catching and transporting a group of eight animals – that are up to six metres tall – took more than two days and a huge team of people, from across the world, and involved moving each giraffe into a roofless ‘chariot’ after catching them with rope.
The bizarre series of events – that ultimately saved the animals’ lives – was captured on camera by wildlife photographer Sean Viljoen.
The highlly-threatened West African giraffes were rounded up and transported 500 miles from an area close to Niger’s capital, Niamey, to Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve.
After capture, each giraffe was carefully guided into a chariot. The giraffe were then transported in two groups of four to their final destination. Each trip took over 48 hours.
The project was carried out by the government of Niger with the support of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).
The team consisted of the GCF team, additional experts from Southern Africa and the USA to help capture the giraffes, including an experienced wildlife veterinarian and giraffe capture team.
All eight giraffes have now been successfully relocated and are enjoying their time in their new reserve.
Stephanie Fennessy, co-founder and co-director of the GCF said: “Almost 50 years ago, giraffe became locally extinct in the Gadabedji area because of drought and illegal hunting. The re-introduction of giraffe will further enrich the reserve’s biodiversity and contribute to increasing community development and support in the region.
“This was the first ever giraffe translocation in Niger, so there was no experience and expertise in the country for moving giraffe, in particular such a long distance.
“Eight giraffes were successfully released in Gadebadji Biosphere Reserve and continued monitoring of the giraffe by GCF together with local community members shows that the giraffe are doing well.
“Giraffe numbers in Africa have declined by about 30% in the past three decades. There are only about 111,000 giraffe remaining in all of Africa; that is one giraffe for every four elephants.
“There was a lot of excitement surrounding the translocation and people are happy to have giraffe return to their area”.
For more information, go to giraffeconservation.org