Kiko is a special giraffe, with a very special place in our hearts, and we knew he needed an equally special place to take his next steps towards a wild life. It had to be in a protected area, where Reticulated giraffe roam wild, yet still with that intimate touch that Kiko has grown so accustomed to.
We have spent this year searching for that home, and it was our dear friend Richard Roberts who offered a solution. He proposed that Kiko come to his family’s lodge, Sirikoi, where he would join another giraffe who they hand-raised named Nditu. Sirikoi is a beautiful and nurturing place within the famed Lewa Conservancy, filled with wild herds of Reticulated giraffe. Sue Roberts, Richard’s mum and owner of Sirikoi, very kindly agreed to Richard’s proposal, so we settled on this property as Kiko’s new home and future.
Kiko will have a very good life at Sirikoi. The Lewa Conservancy is a key protected habitat, a place where wildlife thrive. Kiko will be exposed to the wilds every day, initially in the company of his Keeper. He will still have a protected place to return to at night, where he can enjoy his bottle safe from the threat of any predators. We have built a customized stockade at Sirikoi in anticipation of Kiko’s arrival — and made it extra large to accommodate Nditu too, who we hope will become his good friend. She was raised by Sue and Willie Roberts, a Reticulated giraffe of two worlds, just like Kiko himself. She is a fair bit older, but remains very much an integral part of Sirikoi life. We hope that Nditu can become the bridging catalyst that guides Kiko towards a more independent wild life, in time.
Kiko’s move will be a considerable undertaking. The Kenya Wildlife Service Veterinary team will manage the process, making sure he’s safe and healthy as he embarks on a journey of approximately 250 kilometers to his new home. We have been familiarising Kiko with his customised travel crate, which will be raised onto a flat bed trailer pulled behind a lorry to transport him to Sirikoi.
Kiko has been undergoing loading practice every day for a couple of months now. To entice him into the crate, we fill a bucket with his favorite lucerne pellets and hoist it high in a thorn tree. That, plus a Keeper standing high on a ladder with a milk bottle at the ready, have helped him become totally at ease with his crate and in typical Kiko fashion, he is now pretty blasé about the whole routine! He will be moved at a time when the conditions are favourable and the necessary KWS team is ready. While the date has not been set, it will happen in the next few months.
Nditu has already moved into the stockades we built at Sirikoi, and has grown exceptionally comfortable with her new nighttime home. She is an impressively beautiful girl, and we suspect that she and Kiko will get along famously, but she does come with a love interest already. It’s an unusual one for sure: a rabbit! Nditu’s bunny friend slips out of his rabbit boma every evening, running the gauntlet of jackals and leopards, to enter Nditu's stockade so that he can spend the nights close to her, and enjoy the perks of sharing her food. These fond feelings are certainly reciprocated, and this odd couple are adorable to watch together, so comfortable in each other’s company. While the presence of Nditu’s furry friend will certainly be a novel addition for Kiko to grow accustomed to, he is certainly not unused to unusual sights. After all, this is a giraffe who grew up living amidst baby elephants, hyraxes, thompon’s gazelles, and baby rhinos. Not much can shock Kiko, who marches very much to his own rhythm.
With these preparations underway, we wanted to share them with all Kiko’s supporters around the world. Many of you have followed his remarkable story, from a tiny baby who was orphaned when the cruel hand of fate saw a wire snare rob him of his mother, to when he was flown down to us from Meru National Park, obediently sitting forlorn in a kikapu, a Kenyan woven basket. From a tiny creature back then, to the towering mischievous form he presents today, we look forward to Kiko’s next chapter with you. All of this will happen at his own pace, and he will still have a Keeper's care, milk, and supplementary food until he feels comfortable enough to live a totally wild life. He is still young and his reintegration journey will take a few more years yet, before he is ready to live independent of his human family.
Kiko’s translocation is preciously poignant because Richard Roberts, who masterminded this, is no longer with us today. He died a young man with so much promise, and it's hard to make sense of why it should be this way. He left his beautiful family and all who knew and loved him deeply bereft by his passing, for he was one of those enigmatic, unforgettable, ‘one of a kind’ people who left the world — and particularly the conservation landscape in Kenya — so much poorer for his passing. His dreams and momentum will certainly remain with us all, and those so special who went before, who are there in the great somewhere now, but remain very much at the core of this story.