Before we left for Kenya, we had sort of nixed the Giraffe Center from our list of things we wanted to do. I mean…after seeing giraffes in the wild, none of us were that interested in seeing giraffes in captivity (though they have a very large enclosure where they can roam freely).
But we received some good reviews about the Center while we were at Leleshwa, and decided to give it a shot.
I actually thought it was a good experience, and yes, I enjoyed petting/feeding a giraffe. They have a single family of giraffes there. They are all Rothschild giraffes, which I had never seen before. Masai giraffes are much more common in the savannas–Rothschild are in Northern Kenya and I think significantly more endangered.
The Center is run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, and there isn’t much there besides, well, the giraffes. The giraffes are there to raise awareness and offer educational opportunities about the species. Entry is about $10 US dollars. It’s a non-profit and also has a pretty good gift shop if you are still looking for something to take home from Kenya!
They are funny creatures. Allowed to roam freely, one giraffe would come over for the human feeding and then get tired of the noise and frenzied children, and saunter away. Pretty soon a different giraffe would wander over for a bit of feeding time, as he pleased. They certainly were in no hurry, and clearly came for the food not for the pets. None of them particularly liked the human attention, but those alfalfa pellets were quite attractive.
The tongue of a giraffe is long, like a dog, and scratchy, sort of like a cat but much more glamorous (cats/cat tongues are just weird in general…giraffes are much cooler). It’s also a weird blue/black and very prehensile. Good for eating Acacia trees and avoiding the spikes…also good for enveloping small, unwitting human hands and ensuring they consume the full handful of alfalfa pellets rather than just one at a time! Their fur was much softer than I expected–sort of like an Airedale? It was fun just to watch their mannerisms and annoyance with humans who wanted affection.
If you are on the fence but have some free time, the Giraffe Center is a good cause and all the giraffes seem happy as clams with freedom to roam/eat acacia as they please. I probably won’t ever see a giraffe that closely again, and it is incredible to see the lanky, curious creatures at arms length.