Three giraffes were killed after being electrocuted by low-hanging power lines in the Soysambu Conservancy in southwestern Kenya over the weekend of February 20. Photos of the giraffes posted online sparked outrage from conservationists and Kenyan citizens, who demanded that Kenya’s power company alter the electrical infrastructure in the conservatory. On February 22, engineers adjusted the power lines in hopes of preventing further harm to wildlife.
On Friday, February 19, two Rothschild’s giraffes were electrocuted, while a third was found dead on Sunday, February 21.
The Rothschild’s giraffe is a rare subspecies that mainly resides in protected areas in Uganda and Kenya. As of 2018, the Soysambu Conservancy was home to 124 giraffes, most of them Rothschild’s. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, there are 609 Rothschild’s giraffes in the country, nearly half of the worldwide population.
Though populations of this subspecies have been recuperating since they were deemed endangered in 2010, the Rothschild’s giraffe remains vulnerable due to illegal hunting, human interference and habitat destruction.
‘We are panicked because we wanted to preserve them and now we are actually losing them’
According to Jackson K. Kinyanjui, an environmental researcher and founder of the non-profit Climate Change Kenya, protecting Kenyan giraffe populations has important impacts both economically and environmentally.
Since 2019, we have lost 11 Rothschild’s giraffes, but these most recent three actually caught the attention and caused some traction. We are panicked because we wanted to preserve them and now we are actually losing them. It is very important because it creates a lot of tourist attraction for our country, this is a huge income part of our country, a huge contributor to our GDP. Having these giraffes here is part of tourists coming to our country. The revenues we get from conservancies help to develop the communities around them. If we don’t protect these animals then we lose that revenue.
Apart from that, these giraffes are part of the ecosystem. Once the giraffes are scrapped away from the ecosystem, there would be an imbalance in terms of the food chain. We need them to be there so that the ecosystem can stay in balance and so that biodiversity can actually continue to flourish.
More than six giraffes killed in 10 years
According to the Soysambu Conservancy website, this is not the first time a giraffe has been killed by a power line in the park. Another was similarly electrocuted in August 2018, the sixth giraffe killed by power lines in Soysambu in 10 years.
Other animals have also been impacted by power lines, including some bird species, according to Kinyanjui.
Apparently the low lying power lines that electrocuted 3 giraffes in Soysambu Ranch have also killed very many raptors in the area as seen in this photos send to me by a conservationist. pic.twitter.com/JcRh3XZ8oT
— Odeo Sirari (@OdeoSirari) February 21, 2021
Raptor birds, eagles, even flamingoes have been spotted in these lines because they don’t have any kinds of protections. Usually, there should be some kind of colours, or coloured balls along the lines so that birds can see them.
Following these three most recent giraffe deaths, Kenya Power and Lighting Company investigated the incident and sent a team to heighten the power lines at the site of the electrocution.
We have completed the process of enhancing the clearance of the electricity distribution infrastructure at the site of the electrocution within Soysambu Conservancy. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/LpmzgltLp5
— The Kenya Power & Lighting Company Plc. (@KenyaPower) February 22, 2021
‘Raising the lines is not a remedy’
However, for Kinyanjui, this is not enough:
We don’t want the lines to be lifted up, we want those lines to be totally removed and to be put underground or diverted totally from that conservatory. We don’t need any type of construction or human encroachment in any wildlife conservation parks. Raising the lines is not a remedy. We don’t want them to have anything to do with those conservation areas. But building through these conservancies is cheaper.
According to a statement, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company will conduct an audit of its infrastructure within Soysambu Conservancy and make any changes to potentially harmful structures.