Feeding Rothschild’s giraffes in Langata, Kenya

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There are only a few hundred Rothschild’s giraffe left around the world in the wild, and they are only found in East Africa, which today only includes Kenya and Uganda. In the outskirts of Nairobi in Langata, the Giraffe Center houses some of these endangered species who roam around in the large protected park. We visited the center a little after noon, which apparently was when the  giraffes we saw in the distance were already full. Of course, that was not going to stop us. The center is simple, and there is a raised platform made just for people to climb to be head-level with the giraffes and feed them.

Rothschild’s giraffe is named after Lionel Walter Rothschild, the Second Baron Rothschild, Baron de Rothschild. He was a famed zoologist, who was also a politician and a banker. He found them after an expedition to East Africa in the early 1900s. Rothschild’s giraffe look a bit different from the more common Masaai giraffes in Kenya, with a more creamy colored background to the shapely spots, and most importantly, just plain cream color below the knees.

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The keepers at the Giraffe Center tried to get the giraffes to come towards us by calling their name. Kelly, the oldest giraffe there at fourteen years of age was the first to approach us. As the keepers called out “Kelly! Kelly!” the giraffe finally came and we were able to feed her small palettes one at a time. Visitors are only given two handfuls (I managed to get three, ignoring the sign that light heartedly asked us to not to that for concern of their diet) and we feed them one at a time. The giraffe will come up to you and take it from your palm with their tongue and it is seriously, one of the coolest things I have ever done. This is why I selfishly went and got another handful, because watching them pick a palette at a time from my palm was fascinating. They are beautiful, with big eyes, long face, and a unique patterned skin from other, more common types of giraffes, and so gentle. Kelly, having been around for a while, was equal opportunity, going around the raised platform to eat out of every visitor. Visitors were going crazy (as I was), both with watching them lick palettes off their palms and taking photos, of course.

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Another giraffe came along, named Ibrahim, affectionately called Ibra. Ibra is much younger and way more friendly; he is the one that stuck his head close to us and would lick your face if you got really close (aka, the kiss). Needless to say, adorable.

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The Giraffe Centre was founded by a Kenyan grandson of a Scottish Earl, Jock Leslie-Melville. The center was founded as a way to preserve the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, by breeding and raising them in Langata.

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