One of the most sacred tasks we have as humans is to care for the world we live in and the inhabitants that surround us. I don't consider myself a "tree-hugger", but, I do believe we have a great responsibility to leave things better than we found them.
Betty Leslie-Melville, an American author and conservationist, first visited Kenya in 1958 and was both captivated and appalled. Upon her arrival, she learned that numbers of Rothschild giraffe had dwindled drastically when poachers slaughtered the animals for tourist mementos. She persuaded her then second husband, banker Danny Bruce, to move there and he started a non-hunting safari business, but, they soon divorced. In 1964 she married Jock Leslie-Melville, a Kenyan grandson of a Scottish earl. Later, they purchased an English-style mansion on 120 acres near Nairobi, which had been built for the tycoon, Sir David Duncan, in 1932. Along with her husband, Jock, she raised Daisy, a young Rothschild giraffe, shown above, on their estate, which would soon be affectionately known as "Giraffe Manor".
Giraffes are the tallest creatures on the planet, some reaching a height of nineteen feet. They are ungulates, or even-toed hoofed mammals, which include animals such as cattle, goats, pigs, camels, deer and hippopotamus. They are also ruminants, cud-chewing, animals just like the cow. Four species of the giraffe exist and all are native to Africa, including; Northern, Reticulated, Southern and Masai. The Northern variety contains four sub-species; Kordofan, Nubian, West African and Rothschild. The Southern variety contains two sub-species; Angolan and South African. The Masai variety includes one ecotype, the Rhodesian. Ecotypes are variants where the differences are too few or too subtle to warrant sub-species status.
Often called the "Giraffe Lady" , Betty was instrumental in protecting and increasing numbers of the Rothschild species. In addition, she and Jock helped save 18,000 acres of habitat. While working in Kenya and the breeding program established at Giraffe Manor, the giraffe population grew from about one hundred twenty to over four hundred. In 1972 the couple created the Fund for Endangered African Wildlife. Betty authored Raising Daisy Rothschild in 1977, which inspired the movie, The Last Giraffe, in 1979. Betty continued to write with proceeds funding the Giraffe Centre formed at Langata, Kenya in 1983.
As numbers of giraffe grew, so did the number of "pets" on the grounds of the manor. The couple would invite the new residents to meals by opening windows, through which the giraffes would poke their huge heads, often for a hand-fed treat. Visitors to Giraffe Manor were intrigued by the couple's familiarity of the wild giraffe. Jock succumbed to brain cancer and passed in 1984. Betty later opened the manor as a lodge with accommodation fees contributing to conservation works. Visitors would get a close-up view of giraffes and the couples' work would continue. Betty passed in 2005 at the age of 78 due to complications of dementia. Giraffe Manor's torch was passed on to Betty's son, but, is now owned by The Safari Collection. Rooms can be booked per night or as part of a tailor made safari.
Truly, Betty left the world better than she found it.
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