Sunday, May 26, 2024


Rare Giraffe Get a New Home Courtesy of Kenyan Private Island

 The sight of eight majestic Rothschild giraffes floating down Lake Baringo caused onlookers to do a double take – these endangered animals were relocated in part thanks to Samatian Island, a stunning eco-lodge on a private island. 

 Samatian Island Lodge, a unique eco-resort situated on a private island in Kenya’s Lake Baringo, was recently part of a fantastic effort to relocate endangered giraffes to a new home on the other side of the lake. The resort’s parent company, the Safari and Conservation Co., joined forces with the Northern Rangeland Trust to orchestrate this remarkable achievement.

(Image Sourced from

Lake Baringo, one of the most northern of the Great Rift Valley Lakes, is a fertile oasis in the middle of wide expanses of dusty savannah. Beset by drought in recent years, the importance of this large, 130 square kilometre lake and the wetlands that surround it are now more prominent than ever. Eco-tourism, primarily from the UK and Europe, is playing a vital role in bringing interest and attention to the many species who make the Rift Valley their home.

Set on a 30-acre private island on the lake, Samatian Island Lodge is an exclusive boutique resort that aims to blend a spectacular holiday with education about Kenyan wildlife conservation and the challenges it faces. Run by Caroline (nee Roberts) and her husband Ross Withey, the island has been in the Roberts family since the 1950’s. Both Kenyan citizens, the resort owners incorporate the warm hospitality for which Kenya is known into their guest’s visits, and can provide detailed knowledge of the local area and culture. The resort itself is designed to offer intimate, understated luxury – four rustic chalets are clustered around the bronze water’s edge, enjoying panoramic views of the lake and Kenya’s mountainous Northern Frontier.

(Image Courtesy of Samatian Island Lodge)

The local activities are virtually endless. Guests can get an authentic view of African culture by visiting nearby tribes like the Pokot, who still adhere to a purely traditional way of life, and may allow participation in their rituals. Nature-watching is a prime draw for visitors, as the surrounding area has all of the ingredients of a prime safari experience – hippos, flocks of thousands of flamingos, impala, zebra and warthogs can all be seen. And of course, giraffe – perhaps including the elusive, critically endangered  Rothschilds.

While giraffes on the whole are not considered endangered, Rothschilds number very few in the wild – the breeding population consists of less than 700 adults. This special breed is distinguishable from other varieties by the creamy hue of their colouring, unmarked legs that give the impression of white stockings, and five horns on their head (compared to the two horns found in all giraffe). The physiological differences are so striking that some scientists support designating Rothschilds an entirely new species of giraffe. However, there is one thing they have in common with all of their brethren – a pronounced distaste for water travel!

Giraffes are so notoriously difficult to transport that it took four years to plan the Rothschilds’ exodus to their new home –or rather, their old home. The eastern shore of Lake Baringo was the original habitat of these animals 70 years ago, although it has not been reported why, or how, they left their ancestral lands. The animals were held in pens for four weeks to ensure that they were calm enough to be moved, and then placed in a pen on a barge with cloth covering their bodies, leaving just their elegant necks and heads exposed. Understandably, officials were nervous – this was Kenya’s first attempt to transport giraffe by water.

Happily, the relocation was a great success. Now safely within the confines of the Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy, the giraffes are reported to have recovered from their 90-minute journey and are adjusting well to their new environment. Congratulations to the Safari and Conservation Co., Samatian Island Lodge, the Northern Rangelands Trust and all others involved with this remarkable conservation effort!

To read more about the Rothschild Giraffe relocation, please visit Samatian Island Lodge’s blog:

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