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Sharing my breakfast with a Rothschild giraffe is not just faintly surreal but huge fun, charmingly chaotic, rather wondrous, and an unforgettable experience. This would likely be the case for anyone interested in wildlife, conservation, and African safari. For to touch, see, sniff, and feed (with organic nuts) these elegant—and endangered—animals at such close proximity is a special experience to be savoured.


I had arrived at Kenya’s Giraffe Manor the day before, after a long flight from England. I had been driven through the notoriously mad Nairobi traffic out to the leafy suburb of Langata and into the oasis that is Giraffe Manor, a wonderfully eccentric faux Scottish hunting lodge built in 1932 by Sir David Duncan, a member of the Mackintosh family of Mackintosh’s Toffee fame. I might have been arriving for a weekend house party in the Highlands, were it not for some scurrying warthogs and the dozen or so tall, leggy, graceful herbivores wandering around the lawns and acacia trees.


When Jock Lesley-Melville and his American born wife, Betty—a model turned charismatic conservationist, author, and often called “The Giraffe Lady,” for her love and devotion to the species—acquired the property in 1974, she discovered that the Rothschild giraffe was under threat. Their habitat was fast being lost to farmland development. Betty persuaded her husband to allow giraffes to live on their fifteen-acre estate—the first one being Daisy—and they have been there ever since. The couple created the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife based both in Kenya and Maryland and most importantly launched a breeding program to reintroduce giraffes to the wild.


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This story appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of MILIEU