Written by Jenn Bussell
In late March 2011, an orphaned baby reticulated giraffe, no more than a few days old with her umbilical cord still attached, was found roaming the grounds of a lodge closed for the season. Community scouts from the local Samburu Tribe spotted her and took her in. After a series of phone calls and some very quick thinking by Sue Roberts, proprietor of the Sirikoi Lodge on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya, a rescue effort nothing short of amazing was coordinated.
Shaky and malnourished and far from Sirikoi, the most expedient way to safely transport the baby giraffe was via helicopter, taking a team of more than 10 people to prep her for the journey. While members of the Samburu tribe gently cradled her head, the team softly bandaged her eyes and bound her legs, essential for her safety and the safety of the crew.
Once at Sirikoi, it was all hands on deck to ensure baby Nditu (Kenyan for ‘young girl’) was cared for around the clock. For the first day, Nditu was fed only electrolytes in water to safeguard her from dehydration, a potential life-threatening situation for all wild animals when they’re first rescued, according to Sue Roberts.
Nditu was then slowly introduced to powdered cow’s milk formula and soon she was drinking two liters of formula three times a day. By the age of three months, Nditu was consuming 12 liters of milk per day plus eight raw eggs — talk about your power eating!
In addition to proper food and nutrition, Nditu required a warm, dark and quiet area of her very own. A cozy stable next door to a foal named Twinkle was the perfect spot to acclimate Nditu to her newly adopted family. During Nditu’s first days at Sirikoi, the horses were terrified of this strange new creature, but they slowly accepted her as one of their own.
“Nditu was so smitten with all the horses at Sirikoi she quickly decided she must be one of them, following them around the grounds and even trying to join me on my daily rides, which she still enjoys today,” Sue added.
To make it easier for Nditu to get around with equine siblings, the Sirikoi team built a special giraffe gate just for her. This system also enables Nditu to wander off and meet other wild giraffes at the local watering hole, an essential developmental step for Nditu’s eventual release back into her natural habitat.