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Officials: Three rare giraffes electrocuted to death by power lines in Kenya conservation area

ZU_09/iStock
ZU_09/iStock

By MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(LONDON) — Three rare giraffes were electrocuted to death when they walked into low-hanging power lines within a conservation area in western Kenya, officials said.

The Kenya Power and Lighting Company, which owns and operates most of the electricity transmission and distribution systems in the East African nation, said in a press release Monday that the deadly incident occurred in Soysambu Conservancy over the weekend and that all three animals were Rothschild’s giraffes, one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe.

The Kenya Wildlife Service, the country’s wildlife agency, said in a separate press release that two giraffes were electrocuted in Soysambu Conservancy on Sunday, without mentioning when a third was killed. ABC News has reached out to the agency for clarification.

The Kenya Power and Lighting Company said it has begun “the process of enhancing the clearance of the electricity distribution infrastructure at Soysambu Conservancy,” which spans some 48,000 acres in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, about 85 miles northwest of Nairobi. The company said it is working with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Soysambu Conservancy’s management and other stakeholders on the effort, which will also involve an audit of the entire infrastructure within the conservation area “to many any other rectifications that may be required.”

“We regret this incident because we recognize that wildlife forms an integral part of our natural and cultural psyche, and we appreciate the feedback shared by various stakeholders on this matter,” Bernard Ngugi, managing director and CEO of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, said in a statement Monday. “Ensuring that we adhere to the highest forms of safety in all our undertakings, is a prerequisite for us. We thus take any electricity-related accidents seriously and we will use the lessons gleaned to avoid a reoccurrence of the same.”

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu took to Twitter to express outrage over the incident, saying that power lines have been killing giraffes, vultures and flamingoes. She also posted images of three lifeless giraffes lying under utility poles that she said were the ones electrocuted in Soysambu Conservancy over the weekend.

“Advice from experts was ignored,” Kahumbu tweeted. “Sad that it takes these kinds of deaths to wake some people up!”

Kenya is home to a total of 28,850 giraffes, including 609 Rothschild’s giraffes, which are a subspecies of the Northern giraffe, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The Rothschild’s giraffe was classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species in 2010 but was later downlisted to near threatened as population numbers increased, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The subspecies was later proposed as conspecific with the Nubian giraffe, which is currently listed as critically endangered.

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