It is remarkable how far Kiko has come over the past five years. When we rescued him as a newborn in 2015, he was small enough for a Keeper to carry him single handedly. He fit easily onto the plane that ferried him from Meru to Nairobi, swaddled in a ball of blankets with just his neck and head poking out.
Needless to say, his graduation to Sirikoi in March 2020 was a little more complicated. After four years at the Nursery, Kiko was clearly outgrowing his original home. He needed a place where he could become acquainted with his own kind, a place where he could be reintegrated back into the wild. Sirikoi was the perfect destination. It sits within the expansive Lewa Conservancy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a thriving population of reticulated giraffes. Sirikoi also has a resident orphaned giraffe of its own, Nditu.
And so, on the morning of 17th March 2020, after much practice and preparation, Kiko embarked on the next step in his journey. Far from a quick flight, this entailed a 270-kilometre trek by road, though the city of Nairobi and beyond. Moving a nearly full-size giraffe was always going to be a logistical challenge, but it was compounded by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Kiko, however, was rather blasé about the entire undertaking. He remained happily ensconced in his custom translocation crate, with his head poking above to take in all the sights and sounds.
Kiko has called Sirikoi home for over a year now. Our gangly giraffe has really embraced his new residence; indeed, one could even say he lords over it! He has the run of Sirikoi and strides around wherever his whims take him, investigating all the goings-on and introducing himself to every creature who crosses his path. Landscaping has become one of his favourite hobbies, and when he sees the gardeners at work, he zips over to offer his assistance. Fortunately, staff are very accommodating of Kiko’s wayward ways.
Kiko’s loyal and long-suffering Keeper, Simon, remains a mainstay in his life. He helped raise Kiko at the Nursery, and his continued presence at Sirikoi is certainly a comfort to the young giraffe. In fact, if Kiko loses sight of Simon for even a moment, he is quick to seek him out. Never one to shy away from unusual friendships, Kiko has expanded his social circle at Sirikoi. He loves to mingle with the resident horses, greeting them at their stables and joining them on long browsing excursions. He is also very fond of Bun Bun, a bold white rabbit who invites herself into his stockade most evenings.
He has developed a very special friendship with Nditu, a fellow orphaned giraffe. This refined girl is four years Kiko’s senior and has been raised at Sirikoi since her infancy. Nditu is the yin to his yang; she has no interest in causing mischief and prefers to do her own thing. However, she has a soft spot for Kiko and has certainly helped him embrace his giraffe side.
This was an area where Kiko needed support. Growing up at the Nursery alongside baby elephants and an eclectic mix of other creatures, he was always rather confused about his own identity. In fact, Kiko would bolt away from any giraffe he encountered in Nairobi National Park. We moved him to Sirikoi so he could become comfortable among his kind — and we are happy to report enormous breakthroughs on that front. Over the course of the year, he has become friendly with a number of wild giraffes. Far from the shy boy who would once bolt away his species, Kiko now actively seeks them out. He has spent many an afternoon browsing in the company of new friends, all but indistinguishable from the wild company he keeps.
It has been an exciting twelve months for Kiko, full of personal growth and new frontiers. Reintegration is a gradual journey for every orphan, but we are immensely proud of the progress he has made in a year. As he continues to explore his independence, we will be there to support him every step of the way.