The Nairobi Giraffe Centre is a sanctuary where endangered Rothschild giraffes are nurtured and protected until they are ready to be released back into the wild. Giraffes themselves are not rare in Kenya. However, the Rothschild giraffe is one of the most endangered types of giraffes, with fewer than 1,500 left in the wild.
The Giraffe Centre is home to these enormous elegant creatures, while also acting as an education centre for local children. The centre started an ecology programme where children take day trips to the centre to learn about Kenya’s indigenous wildlife. Recently, the ecology programme allowed twenty-two children from SOS Children's Village Nairobi to interact with Rothschild giraffes.
First stop: animal orphanage
Children between the ages of six and nine filed onto the bus headed for the Nairobi Giraffe Centre. The children first stopped at the animal orphanage, which is part of the Nairobi National Park. Here, the children saw animals who had lost their mothers, including leopards and cheetahs. The orphaned animals were being cared for by trained zoologists and vets. The children went to an elephant orphanage next. The children watched baby orphaned elephants drink milk, play football and take mud baths.
“Like the SOS children, each baby elephant is given a new 'mother' who feeds them, cares for them and gives them the love and security that their natural mother would have provided,” explains an SOS staff member from the Nairobi Village.
In awhile, crocodileNext, the children went to the Mamba Village, which translates as "crocodile village". The crocodiles soaked up the hot afternoon sun as the children safely enjoyed their lunch next to them behind a fence. After the children gobbled up their lunch, they made their way to their final destination: the Nairobi Giraffe Centre.
A giraffe caretaker briefly explained what they do at the centre, why Rothschild giraffes are protected and how these giant mammals like to be feed. The children followed the caretakers lead and climbed up the platform where they could be face-to-face with the cream and dark brown spotted giraffes.
Hungry, hungry giraffes
Giraffes in the wild are browsers who love to eat leaves; at the Giraffe Centre their diet is enhanced with food pellets that the visitors are able to feed them. The SOS children made friends with a couple of the hungry giraffes before settling down to watch a film on wildlife conservation.
“For Kenyan children who do not often get the chance to see the wildlife, it was a very good day and they learned a great deal about conservation,” explains an SOS mother.
When asked what they had learned, most of the children said taking care of animals. However, a few explained that conservation of wildlife goes beyond just animals. Nine-year-old Jacinta says, "Trees should also be saved – if you cut down a tree you should plant more." Maria, also nine, explains that everyone should be more mindful not to contaminate or waste water. With the threat of climate change and animal extinctions, the children learned why preservation and conversation are important.
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