Kissing giraffes at Nairobi’s Giraffe Centre

By E Makena

In the leafy suburbs of Karen, lies one of the fascinating animal sanctuaries around the city, the Giraffe centre. Many years have gone into creating the giraffe sanctuary that has overtime become a popular tourist attraction in Nairobi.

The majestically tall mammals freely roam the expanse 120 acre portion of land browsing on bushes and shrubs. Betty, Daisy, Salma, Eddie, Kelly and Maggie, named after the first lady Margaret Kenyatta are some of the names of the ten giraffes found at the sanctuary.

“Each giraffe needs upto 10 acres to freely move around and get enough food thus the rest are transferred to other parks. One can eat upto 65 kgs of leaves,” explains George.

When not peeking their long necks through the lush foliage, they show up behind a wooden enclosure and a platform that separates them from the numerous visitors eager to catch a glimpse of them. Spotting wildlife at close proximity is one of the thrilling experiences at Girafe Centre .  Getting to touch, feed them with girrafe pellets and even kiss them if you are daring enough further ameliorates the wild experience.  Their saliva has antiseptic properties.

The centre started as rehabilitation for the endangered Rothschild giraffe but was later opened up to tourists. In 1978 the late Jock Leslie- Melville and his wife Betty who are the founders of the Centre brought the first pair of Rothschild giraffes to their home in Langata from a ranch near Soi, Western Kenya.

Jock and Betty started feeding them outside their house and organized for more that  were in Soi to be relocated.  Giraffe centre was opened in 1979 to facilitate the breeding of the Rothschild giraffes and reintroducing their breeding pairs onto the wild to boost their dwindling population. The conservation efforts have borne fruits boosting the number of Rothschild giraffe from 130 back in 1978 to over 600 in Kenya currently. The couple’s home has since been transformed into an exclusive boutique hotel popularly known as the Giraffe manor.

I am a little wary as I hold the pellets ready to feed Daisy. Covered in a patterned skin of brown and beige spots, Daisy lowers her long neck slowly. The patterns are consistent through -out her body except from knee down where the skin is white. This is the one of the most distinct ways of differentiating the Rothschild giraffe from other subspecies. They are fondly referred to as the giraffes wearing white socks. Other sub-species of giraffes in Kenya are the Maasai and reticulated girrafes

On the adjacent side of Giraffe centre there is a nature trail made of over 3000 trees most of which are medicinal. Inhabited by up-to 278 species of birds, the nature trail which is part of the giraffe sanctuary is ideal for bird-watching especially in the morning and evenings. A seasonal stream, Gogo flows through it and is a tributary of River Mbagathi. A few hours at Giraffe center serve as a reminder of how remarkably beautiful Kenya is, and that one doesn’t have to break a bank to relish the country’s beauty.

Along the way

Nairobi National Park

Game viewing against the backdrop of skyscrapers is one of the major attractions of Nairobi National park. It’s easily accessible from the central business district via Langata Road.

Langata Botanical Gardens

Located in Karen the gardens are characterized with well-manicured lawns, and lush trees. The serenity and beauty of the gardens make them ideal for outdoor events and recreational activities.

The Hub Karen

Approximately 20 minutes from Giraffe Centre, the mixed use complex is is convenient for shopping and recreational activities.

The Article first appeared on People Daily Newspaper.

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