Tuesday July 14 2015

How giraffes were shifted from Murchison Falls to Lake Mburo national park

The relocation of giraffes involved

The relocation of giraffes involved transporting them, in a specially designed trucks, carefully to avoid them being stressed by the movement. On arrival, they are confined in a specially constructed enclosure for some time as they adjust to their new surroundings. File photo 

By ESERI WATSEMWA

Late last month, Dr Andrew Seguya, executive director, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), flagged off the translocation of 15 Rothschild giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park, in Nwoya District, to Lake Mburo National Park in Western Uganda.
There were four males (bulls) and 11 females (cows), which has left Murchison Falls with 885 giraffes.
The Rothschild giraffe is also known as the Baringo or Ugandan giraffe. Its range includes parts of Uganda and Kenya.
It is one of the most endangered giraffe sub-species, with only a few hundred left in the wild (fewer than 700 are believed to remain in the wild and more than 450 are kept in zoos).

It has large dark patches that usually have complete margins, but may also have sharp edges. The dark spots also have paler radiating lines or streaks within them.
The Rothschild’s spotting does not often reach below the hocks and almost never to the hooves. This subspecies can develop up to five horns.
Eight giraffes including two bulls (males) and six cows (females) where the first batch from Murchison Falls to Lake Mburo.
UWA officials say seven other giraffes comprising five cows (females) and two bulls (males) were transported in the second shift.

Why they were moved
The translocation is part of UWA’s exercise to biologically control Acacia trees in the Lake Mburo National Park, as well as diversify wildlife species and boost tourism there. It is the smallest national park and the one nearest to an urban area.
The initiative is also aimed at reducing the numbers of giraffes in the Murchison Falls park, which has a total of 900 giraffes.
They are taken to different areas where they can feed and breed freely.

During the translocation at Murchison Falls, Dr Seguya said the exercise will help in boosting tourism in Lake Mburo. The latter has been without giraffe species since it was gazetted as a national park.
“Lake Mburo National Park has been without the giraffe species since their extinction about 50 years ago,” said Dr Seguya.
“Introducing the new giraffes there would help diversify wildlife and consequently will attract tourists meaning increased revenue earnings.”
The relocation is the third in the country. In 2009, three giraffes were relocated from Murchison Falls to Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre in Entebbe. “However, we had earlier got some from Lake Baringo which have now multiplied up to 90”.

Easy monitoring
Dr Seguya noted that translocation of wild life is a routine exercise carried out by UWA depending on the needs arising on where the wildlife should be taken and what particular reason.
Jossy Muhangi, UWA’s public relations manager said ecological studies had been conducted before the exercise began that involved assessing; the habitat, amount of food and how the giraffes can be monitored.
“UWA had been planning the translocation and looking at the numbers of giraffes at Murchison Falls, we thought we could not only put our eggs in one basket, thus the need to relocate other wildlife to different areas,” says Muhangi.
He also noted that Lake Mburo is well endowed with Acacia trees and shrubs, which the giraffes feeds on, adding that due to the small size of the park (260 square kilometres), monitoring the giraffes will be easy.

THE PROCESS

“The process took about two weeks to bring all the giraffes to Bomah (monitoring place), we had four veterinary doctors on the ground that assessed and monitored the strength and adaptability of the captured giraffes to stress,” says Mr Muhangi.
He added that a similar Bomah has been constructed at L.Mburo National Park where the Giraffes upon their arrival will be monitored before being released into the wild to start their new lives.
According to the veteran coordinator, Dr Patrick Atimnedi, Giraffes had to be transported at night to avoid traffic as well as too much attention from the crowd.

“Giraffes are special species that are terrified of new environment like many cars on the road and people staring at them. That is why they had to be transported overnight,” he shared.
On transportation, a deep trench was dug to the ground level to enable the giraffes get into the trucks easily. The trucks that carried the giraffes were surrounded by giraffe food (Acacia) and on top were troughs of water. Each truck carries a maximum of 4 giraffes.
“The acacia plants on the trucks are also meant to give the giraffes a feeling they are still in the forest,” said Atimnedi.
Mr Tom Okello Obong, Conservation Manager at Murchison Falls National Park, said the exercise will give space for the growing number of giraffes at the Murchison falls National Park to feed and breed freely.

About Giraffes

The giraffe is an African even-toed ungulate mammal. It is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant. Its species name refers to its camel-like shape and its leopard-like coloring. Its chief distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-like ossicones, and its distinctive coat patterns. It is classified under the family Giraffidae, along with its closest extant relative, the okapi. The nine subspecies are distinguished by their coat patterns.

Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands. Their primary food source is acacia leaves, which they browse at heights most other herbivores cannot reach. Giraffes are preyed on by lions; their calves are also targeted by leopards, spotted hyenas, and wild dogs.
Adult giraffes do not have strong social bonds, though they do gather in loose aggregations if they happen to be moving in the same general direction. Males establish social hierarchies through “necking”, which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon. Dominant males gain mating access to females, which bear the sole responsibility for raising the young.

The Rothschild’s giraffe
The Rothschild’s giraffe
It was named from the Walter Rothschild. It is also called the Baringo or Ugandan giraffe. Its range includes parts of Uganda and Kenya.
Rothschild’s giraffe is one of the most endangered giraffe subspecies, with only a few hundred members in the wild.
Its presence in South Sudan is uncertain. This giraffe has large dark patches that usually have complete margins, but may also have sharp edges. The dark spots may also have paler radiating lines or streaks within them. Spotting does not often reach below the hocks and almost never to the hooves. This subspecies may also develop five “horns”. Fewer than 700 are believed to remain in the wild and more than 450 are kept in zoos. (Sourced from the net)

THE PARKS
Lake Mburo
Lake Mburo National Park is located in Kiruhura District in Western Uganda. The park is situated about 30 kilometers by road, east of Mbarara. This location is approximately 240 kilometers by road, west of Kampala. The coordinates of the park are: 00 36S, 30 57E (Latitude: 0.6000; Longitude: 30.9500).
The park has a variety of animals such as Impala, buffaloes and over 300 bird species, minus giraffes. It occupies approximately 260 square kilometres land and it’s the smallest National park in the country.

Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park is a national park in Uganda managed by Ugandan Wildlife Authority. The park lies in north western Uganda, spreading inland from the shore of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile.
Together with the adjacent 748 square kilometers Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the 720 square kilometres of Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA).

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