Circle of Life: Precious Ruko giraffe calf falls victim to a surprising predator

 
Giraffes on Ruko Conservancy with Lake Baringo in the background 

Giraffes on Ruko Conservancy with Lake Baringo in the background 

 
 
The eight giraffes in Ruko Conservancy made headlines in 2012, when they were moved by boat to the island sanctuary 

The eight giraffes in Ruko Conservancy made headlines in 2012, when they were moved by boat to the island sanctuary 

The rangers in Ruko Conservancy on Lake Baringo have been waiting for four years for a giraffe calf. Since being translocated to Ruko in 2012, the eight Rothschild giraffe (also known as Baringo giraffe) have shown signs of mating, but the females have never fallen pregnant - until now. The 2012 translocation was part of a wider Rothschild giraffe conservation initiative, that has an increasing focus on community-based protection and monitoring efforts. Ruko Conservancy was a former range for the species, which has seen widespread decline over the years - the are estimated to be around 670 individuals remaining in isolated parts of Kenya and Uganda. 

 

When two of the females were confirmed to be pregnant in early 2017, there was much excitement - both within the Ruko community and wider conservation circles. However, tragedy struck when one of the females fell over while taking a drink (not the easiest move for a giraffe to do at the best of times, let alone whilst pregnant.) While she survived the fall, it caused her to have an abortion, and she lost the calf.

Southern African rock python. Image from Arkive. 

Southern African rock python. Image from Arkive. 

The second pregnant female successfully gave birth, a cause for celebration amongst the rangers, especially after the abortion. But fate dealt a second cruel blow when, at just 3 days old, the giraffe calf was taken by an southern African rock python - Africa's largest snake. These reptiles can grow to 4.5 meters in length, with the northern subspecies reaching up to 7.5.

While this is the natural circle of life, interventions must be made when a species as threatened as the Rothschild giraffe are at stake. And so the Ruko Conservancy rangers are now working with the Kenya Wildlife Service to capture and relocate the python. This is increasingly urgent, as the other two females are due to give birth in October.