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Conservation Services

Game Capture and Translocation

Giraffe

  • Giraffe can be darted from a vehicle but can be difficult to follow, especially over rough terrain, as they can run a considerable distance during the induction phase. The use of a helicopter as a darting platform is preferred.
  • Do not dart giraffe that have just drunk as they tend to regurgitate once immobilized.
  • Avoid the heat of the day and excessive chasing of animals.
  • Dart sites include the shoulders and hind-quarters.
  • The more traditional method of capturing giraffe uses a combination of immobilization with etorphine and mechanical capture. The animal is darted with etorphine and as it becomes significantly affected and ataxic it is slowed and pulled down using ropes. A 20 meter rope with three people on each end is held in front of the animal so that it is caught around the upper legs. The ataxic giraffe is slowed until stationary and the rope is then crossed behind the animal and pulled until it collapses to the ground. The use of A3080 at the above dose rates usually results in the animal becoming recumbent without having to be roped and pulled down.
  • Signs of induction include an initial excitement phase accompanied by running, as the animal becomes more affected its head is held far back, it becomes oblivious of what is in front of it and blunders through trees and bushes. At this stage the darted animal usually trips or stumbles and fall.

Handling of the immobilized animal

  • Once recumbent it is essential that the head of a giraffe is restrained and held down at all times.
  • Blindfold the animal and fit a halter to which a lead rope is attached over the head of the giraffe. Plug the ears with cloth or cotton wool and tape them closed to ensure that the ear plugs stay in place. Give the antidote as soon as possible.
  • There is usually no time to monitor an immobilized animal before the antidote is administered. However, it is essential to ensure that the antidote results in a rapid improvement in respiratory function (rate and tidal volume).
  • A rope with two “arms” is place around the base of the neck. This is used to help direct the animal once it is standing.
  • The head of the giraffe is released and the animal assisted into a sternal position. The animal is allowed to stand up in its own time. Once standing, the giraffe is guided, using the attached ropes, into a recovery trailer or chariot.
  • The chariot is used to transport the animal to the transport crate. The halter, blindfold and earplugs are only removed once the animal is in the transport crate.
  • Giraffe can kick very accurately when recumbent or standing, despite being blindfolded and great care must be taken to remain out of range.

Transportation

  • Giraffe are generally transported in mass crates. The higher the roof the better it is for the animals. The maximum height possible is 3.6 m. Some bending of the neck is acceptable on short trips, but not on long journeys. This restriction usually only allows the transport of sub-adult animals.
  • Ventilation must be provided but not at eye level.
  • Females and young animals can fracture their horns against hard objects, especially the roof of the crate if it is not padded.
  • Animals of similar age and size should be grouped together in compartments.
  • Transport vehicles should be driven with extreme caution to prevent animals from falling in the crates. It is generally very difficult for giraffe, especially larger individuals, to stand once they have fallen.

Maintenance in holding facilities

Short-term Confinement

  • Giraffe translocated to a new area can be kept in temporary holding facilities for an adaptation period.
  • Plastic bomas which are 4.1 m high and consist of game capture plastic reinforced with game capture net can be used. The space provided should be at least 30 m2 per animal.
  • Provide shade and water. Animals must be fed browse initially, lucerne and antelope cubes can be added to their diet at a later stage.

Long-term Confinement

  • Holding facilities should allow for 1.8 m2 per animal; with a pen size of about 15 m2.
  • Pens should be enclosed to a height of 4.1 m for adult animals and 2.1m for young animals.
  • Feeding racks should be mounted 1.85m above ground level, with animals initially fed browse only. Lucerne and antelope cubes are added to the diet at a later stage.
  • The floor should be covered by a layer of river sand to prevent damage to the hooves, and to reduce dust levels.