A visit to the Giraffe Centre is the perfect activity to do when stopping over in Nairobi for a day or two before heading off on a Kenya safari.
Located 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) from Nairobi's city centre, the Giraffe Centre offers visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with these friendly giants
The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW), commonly known as the Giraffe Centre, located in Langata, Nairobi, is a non profit organization whose main objective is to provide conservation education to school children and the youth of Kenya.
All their education programmes are offered free of charge to the children. The Giraffe centre obtains 90% of it’s funding from the entrance fees and sales from the teahouse and gift shop. Therefore your visit is directly contributing to conservation education in Kenya.
The Giraffe centre was founded in 1979 as a core breeding centre for the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, and it escalated its conservation efforts in 1983 when it opened an environmental education centre for the Kenyan youth. Today, AFEW deals with breeding Rothschild’s giraffes, ecology trips, trainers workshops, national environmental competitions, funding micro projects, it also monitors, evaluates and produces resource materials for environmental activities.
The Rothschild’s giraffe was first named and described by Lord Walter Rothschild, a passionate zoologist. He named the giraffe following an expedition to East Africa in the early 1900’s. When he first found the Rothschild’s giraffes they were free ranging and abundant across Kenya, Uganda and Sudan. Due to human population expansion, poaching and habitat loss, they are now extinct in Sudan, and there are only thirteen populations remaining in Kenya and Uganda. There are fewer than 670 individuals remaining in the wild today.
In the early 1970’s Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock, discovered 130 of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe on Soy Ranch, a cattle ranch in Western Kenya. This ranch was earmarked to be subdivided to resettle landless people into agricultural plots, this would of been the end of the Rothschild's giraffe. Fortunately there was a military threat from Uganda at this time, so half of the land was made into an army base instead, giving Betty and Jock time to relocate four breeding herds to the safety of four national parks. They also moved two young giraffes to their home in a suburb of Nairobi, in order to create awareness of the giraffes plight.
They wrote a book; “Raising Daisy Rothschild, about their experiences. The book was later made into a TV film, “The last giraffe”. During filming more giraffe were moved onto their property in Nairobi to act for the original two, who were now aging. There suddenly seemed to be a lot of giraffe on the property, which gave Jock the idea to build an education centre so Kenyan schoolchildren could have the opportunity to visit the giraffe and receive conservation education.
In 1980, they raised funds in the United States to build the centre, Africa Fund for Endangered Wildlife was founded (AFEW). Over the years AFEW has purchased the surrounding 60 acres of land surrounding the Langata property, and is paying a mortgage on 40 acres more, to create a sanctuary for the giraffe and preserve a section of habitat in Nairobi.
Every year between 30,000 and 40,000 Kenya students experience the magic of seeing and feeding the giraffe. Another 30,000 to 40,000 general public also visit the centre annually. AFEW have also raised funds so that breeding herds of 26 giraffes were translocated from Soy Ranch to Ruma Game Reserve, Lake Nakuru National Park and Nasalot game reserve.
In more recent times Rothschild's giraffe have been introduced to Soysambu Ranch, Kigio Conservancy and Sergoit Ranch in Mt Elgon region.
Visiting the Giraffe Centre
The Giraffe Centre is open daily from 09:00 am to 5:00 pm including weekends and public holidays. There is an elevated feeding platform that allows you to hand feed the giraffes, which can be an education in itself.
You can see, close at hand, how the giraffe uses its long prehensile tongue to strip leaves from the acacia branches. There is a teahouse and curio shop there; also a 2 Km nature trail to walk through.