Assessment of the success of translocation of giraffe to Sera Wildlife Conservancy based on one-year of post release monitoring

In August 2008, 23 reticulated giraffe were successfully moved from Aberdare Country Club to Sera Wildlife Conservancy. The giraffe were held in a temporary boma at Kauro headquarters for approximately six weeks before being released at the end of September. To facilitate post-release monitoring, individual identification photos and names were determined for 8 giraffe and 3 giraffe were fitted with bridle-type radio collars. Two Sera scouts were trained in post-release monitoring including, individual identification, feeding behaviour, radio-tracking and data collection methods. This report provides a final assessment of the success of the giraffe translocation based on one year of post-release monitoring data (to September 2009).

Since they were moved to Sera, scouts have confirmed the deaths of four adult females (including one collared) and one infant. Confirmed mortality post-release is 17% (4 out of 23 individuals successfully moved to Sera). Total confirmed mortality up to one year post-release, including those that died during the capture operation, is 27% of captured giraffe.

Giraffe remained close to headquarters immediately post-release however disbursed after the rains fell in October 2008. Although sightings are made infrequently, one year post-release we can estimate that 30-50% of the population released in Sera have remained within the vicinity of the conservancy. Post release monitoring has been constrained by the short transmission time of the VHF collars. No observations of the two surviving collared giraffe have been made since March 2009.

The relatively low frequency of observations of translocated giraffe is likely due to monitoring constraints and dispersal of translocated individuals beyond the conservancy. There is a need to ensure better monitoring of translocated animals which, in a free-release situation like Sera with a relatively low patrol force (less than 1 scout per 40km2), requires more rigorous radio-tracking (including monthly aerial tracking and vehicle support for ground-tracking) and possibly a larger proportion of collared individuals.

Assessment of the success of this translocation is based on 1) success of the capture operation, and 2) ability of translocated giraffe to acclimatize to the new area and boost the existing population. This translocation had relatively low mortality during capture and transport; however loss of animals occurred immediately post-release. One-year post-release, monitoring has been able to verify that 30-50% of the released giraffe have remained in the vicinity of Sera conservancy, thereby boosting the existing population by a minimum of 7-12 animals.

Acceptable limits for mortality and acclimatization of translocated individuals to the release site are not available in the literature. However, maintaining mortality below 20% and ensuring at least 50% of the translocated animals acclimatize to their new surroundings should be a target for future translocations.