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Monday, 13 November, 2000, 16:52 GMT
'Noah's Ark' returns home
The only giraffes to have circumnavigated Africa
The only giraffes to have circumnavigated Africa
A boat carrying 22 giraffes and three rhinos has returned home to South Africa after sailing completely around Africa.

Dubbed Noah's Ark, the ship was seeking to transport wild animals captured earlier this year to zoos and wildlife parks in Spain.


We were prepared to do whatever they (Spain) wanted to do and they said no. It's a terrible story

Jeff Richmond
It left Durban on 5 October for the Spanish port of Valencia.

However, it was refused permission to enter Spanish waters following widespread reporting of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease back in South Africa.

The boat then sailed back into Durban harbour on Monday after 40 days at sea.

As the MSC Michele arrived, 22 necks could be seen sticking out from bright yellow containers.

Relieved

Jeff Richmond, from the animal shipping company Global Wildlife Logistics, said that all of the animals' paperwork had been in order when they left, and he was extremely relieved that most of the animals had returned safely.


At sea for 40 days and 40 nights
"There are no other giraffes that have circumnavigated Africa," said the cattle rancher who began exporting animals four years ago.

"We were prepared to do whatever they (Spain) wanted to do and they said no. It's a terrible story," he said.

A vet said many of the animals had lost weight during the trip but appeared to be in good health.

"That they were kept at sea twice as long as they should have been and that they're back in this condition is a major achievement," said veterinarian Charles van Niekerk.

Deaths

Two of the giraffes died halfway through the trip, failing to adapt to the food on board.


Most lost some weight but were in good condition
One of the giraffe's carers said they had now had too much human contact and could not be returned to the wild.

The long journey was criticised as violating international conventions over transporting animals. South Africa is believed to be the continent's biggest exporter of animals but has no laws to protect the welfare of animals destined for foreign zoos.

Neil Fraser, a spokesman for the animal welfare organisation SPCA in South Africa, said: "This company has been very good, but in South Africa there are many people who don't know what they are doing."

The animals are now being returned to the bushveld where they were captured. The estimated cost of the entire trip is put at $600,000.

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See also:

04 Sep 00 | Africa
SA elephants transfer to Angola
18 Jan 00 | Africa
Taking a virtual safari
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