Set the poor Giraffes free!!!
Why are these Giraffes held captive?
These cries for help are a testament to the caliber of fan that Rothschild Safaris attract.
Any of our social media posts featuring Giraffe Manor in Nairobi always receive a couple of questions like these in response. You see, our guests generally care more about the welfare of the animals in Africa than they are interested in indulging the fantasies of humans. Entertainment is not our raison d’etre either. And it certainly is not where Giraffe Manor is at.
In fact. If you want to blame the plight of the poor giraffes at Giraffe Manor on anyone at all, might we be so bold as to suggest that you shout directly at Tom, Dick, and Harry!?
This is their story:
Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel set in 12 acres of private land that lies within 0.5 km2 of indigenous forest in the Langata suburb of Nairobi. From the glass windows, you can spy Mt Kilimanjaro resting in the south and the western aspect frames the dreamy Ngong Hills. The piano was brought to Africa a century ago (one imagines the journey… the dust and the sweat and the care taken by hands who would never play such an object and could hardly comprehend its use) and one room is furnished with property Baroness Blixen sold to pay her debts when she lost her coffee farm.
There can be no better introduction to Africa. Or indeed a more interesting one.
It is difficult to conceive of something this crazy but dazzling anywhere in the world. Never mind Nairobi.
Some of the Manor’s charm might lie in the fact that it was modeled on a Scottish hunting lodge and built as the home of toffee magnate Sir David Duncan’s horse breeding farm in 1932. In the 1960’s the Manor was leased out to various tenants, eventually fell into disrepair and then left unoccupied until it was bought by Betty Leslie Melville and her husband Jock in 1974.
Betty was first captured by Africa when she visited a friend in Kenya. She said of her first visit in 1958:
“I fell in love with the country, it’s like you’re in a Technicolor world.”
The beer commercial model returned home and promptly persuaded her then second husband, Dancy Bruce, to move to Kenya with her and her young children. Fate, that old thorn, intervened on an African beach where she met the Earl of Leven’s grandson, Jock Leslie-Melville. Betty would leave her husband for the love that would inspire her to write a book and last until Jock’s death in 1984.
Which brings us to the point in the story where Tom, Dick, and Harry started sticking their heads into the first story windows every morning. Instead of leaving Jock for these handsome boys, however, Betty simply convinced her new husband that they (the humans and the three wild giraffes who had chosen to make the Manor their home) should all share the house.
And then there was more!
Almost immediately Betty also learned that the Rothschild Giraffe was in danger of extinction in Kenya due to their habitat being bought out. There was only around 120 Rothschild Giraffe left in the world when they bought the Manor.
So, Betty did what any sane woman already living with Tom, Dick, and Harry (and Jock who agreed to everything Betty asked) would do! She adopted an orphan Rothschild giraffe called Daisy. They set up the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) in Maryland, America and not long after, they found a friend for Daisy, named Marlon (after Brando). ~Daisy showed Marlon she really liked him a lot by kicking him.~
Two years after Daisy was adopted, five giraffes were moved from western Kenya to the Manor and by 1983 the Giraffe Centre (AFEW Kenya) was started. The Giraffe Centre provides Kenyan school children with the opportunity to learn about conservation and ecology and have a chance to interact with the giraffe.
Giraffes are not territorial and generally move around simply to find food and water. The Manor is much smaller than the area that wild Giraffe would usually be found in (anything from between 5 – 654 km2 has been observed) but, of course, their culinary requirements are more than adequately met here.
The program to reintroduce them into the wild has been enormously successful. They would adapt very quickly although transporting them and their high blood pressure proved more of a challenge. Low bridges had to be avoided and the giraffes had to be strapped upright to ensure no-one fainted along the way.
Today around 300 – 400 Rothschild Giraffe roam the wilds of Kenya and their numbers are estimated at 500 altogether. The Leslie-Melvilles are considered to be the only people to ever raise wild giraffe so successfully.
Jock passed away from brain cancer in 1984 and soon after that Betty opened her house to travelers, with profits from their stay going to the education center attached to the estate. After Jock’s death, she returned to Baltimore, handing over the running of Giraffe Manor to her son, though she often returned to visit.
When the house started running as a small private hotel it was operated for the first quarter of a century by Betty’s son Rick and his wife Bryony who considered the property their home and human guests their visitors.
Giraffe Manor has had a very long and illustrious line-up of guests
including Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Walter Cronkite, Candice Bergen, Marlon Brando, Johnny Carson, Stephen Sondheim, Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain, as well as hosting Richard Branson, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s London–Nairobi service in 2007.
In March 2009, Giraffe Manor was purchased by Mikey and Tanya Carr-Hartley and now forms part of The Safari Collection group of lodges and hotels.
It all came about by a type of accident then that Betty, whose home was originally chosen by Tom, Dick, and Harry, became the savior of the Rothschild gene pool. Now, at any one time, the Manor has around a dozen resident giraffes in resident. Traditionally the new giraffes are named after significant donors.
One can only wonder why Walter Cronkite, even though a keen supporter, only managed to have a warthog named for him?
What is a Rothschild Giraffe?
The Rothschild Giraffe has a deep brown coat with white legs and the male has five skin covered ossicles or horns. They are also taller than other giraffes, measuring up to 5.88 m or 19.3 feet tall. They were named Giraffa Camelopardalis rothschildi for zoologist Walter Rothschild (unlike our founder Leora, Walter was a scion of the famous Rothschild family) and used to be a firm favorite with hunters in Kenya, eastern Uganda, and southern Sudan.
The Rothschild Giraffe is also known as the Baringo or Ugandan Giraffe. All Rothschild Giraffe in the wild lives in protected areas in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and Murchison Falls National Park in Northern Uganda. They are possibly extinct from South Sudan and the northeastern DRC.
Other things to do near Giraffe Manor:
The Karen Blixen Museum
The David Sheldrick Trust Elephant Orphanage.
Nairobi National Park
Restaurants and shopping
The local markets