“Unless”

People ask me why I am obsessed with words. Why I seem to know a lot about things but at the same time be so clueless about the things that matter. Well for starters, what things matter? Unless we are talking about SDGs or African poverty, I think “things that matter” are very subjective concepts and cant, therefore, be pinned to a world view.

I love people who play with words. Heck,  Love could be an understatement. I adore them. The other day I was listening to LSD’s track “ No New Friends.” There’s something about that song that has me playing it on repeat. It could be the unique message sent across by the video.

The video takes us to a world of utopia, a land of paradise, no sorrows no worries at all (I used to love that song in Sunday school). This paradise, however, is dominated by dancing Truffula Trees. Have you heard of the story of the Truffula trees or more precisely The Lorax? No? Okay, walk with me. For those who have, take this as a refresher.

The Lorax is a children’s book written by Dr Seuss in the seventy’s documenting the plight of the environment. The Lorax a mystic creature in the book “speaks for the trees” by confronting the Once-ler who promotes environmental degradation. And so the story begins, Once-ler is walking one beautiful morning in search of fertile land. In his walk, he comes across a forest valley full of the Truffula trees. Up until that point, the Once-ler had never seen a tree with such silk-like foliage and incredible colours. So he decides to cut down the tree and from the foliage make a thneed (an incredibly versatile garment).

He sells that garment to a passerby who pays back in kind. This becomes like an epiphanic moment to him. He gets the worst idea ever but to cut down all the trees and expand his industry. So the Lorax who “speaks for the Truffula trees” confronts the Once-ler. He warns the Once-ler against his actions towards the environment. Eventually, all the animals are forced to migrate. The air becomes toxic, The rivers become polluted from the industries waste. Chaos wreaks the land.  Now the dude decides to wake up. Things are going bad. With a lack of resources, his industry shuts down. The Lorax writes on the trunk of the last standing tree, the word “Unless” and flees.

Years later, after pondering over this word in turmoil. The Once-ler realises what the Lorax meant. That “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I think by now you get where am going with this analogy.

The fable depicts our current reality. Cooperate greed over the environment. The Once-ler could very well be our industries and the Lorax the environment. We exploit, degrade, destroy all in the name of economic growth. How is that even self-actualisation? I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. It’s a shame that the human mind is only accustomed to change when pain is involved.

Now you might not have felt the pain yet and are probably wondering what am ranting about, but others have felt it. Take, for example, the case of Mozambique and their floods, or the millions of intoxicated children living in India. If you are wondering what you can do to change this, am proud of you. That’s a significant milestone you took there.

My answer to you. Plant trees. Most of these problems we struggle with find their way back to deforestation and irresponsible logging of trees. Planting trees reduces the carbon footprint in the air, thus bringing a balance in the atmospheric gases. A case like Mozambique would have been less detrimental if they had a large forest cover. The children in India would breathe cleaner air.

The Lorax story ends with the Once-ler giving a young boy Truffula seeds to plant and save the planet. We’ve tried implementing the same line of thinking in the giraffe centre with our school greening initiative. We donate trees to schools and monitor their planting and progress. This ensures that the students take on the full responsibility of planting trees and understand the importance of doing the same.

On sustainability, we educate the students on alternative sources of energy that saves from cutting down trees. This involves teaching them how to make charcoal briquettes with the hope that this message will be passed on to their communities.

Wondering how you can be part of this amazing initiative? Join our 1 dollar 5 seedling project, and for every dollar, you donate 5 seedlings will be given to a school for planting. Before you get this twisted, the donations are for buying seedlings.  “Unless we do this, then we might as well start packing our bags for the journey to the world of the dead.”

A day in the life of our Intern

A typical day for me as an educator at giraffe centre starts with a strong cup of coffee. It should be strong enough to get me up and about.  Days can be long and hectic during these peak seasons, but one rule goes unspoken for an intern:  always be on top your of your game. Today is a Wednesday, and  Wednesdays are good days because we have chicken for lunch and who doesn’t like chicken?

My first task for the day is the packaging of pellets. Not my ideal way of starting the day but Ed, the giraffe, is present today and that most certainly is a sign of good luck. Ed was a case of love at first sight. I don’t like cheesy statements, but for Ed, I will make an exception. You see, if Ed were a man, then he would be the modern-day Idris Elba or  Aqua man if you are into fiction. He is quite the gentleman with tender and amazing kisses.

From packaging pellets, I lead visiting students, if any, into a lecture hall. There I will give a full-on presentation on Sustainable Environmental Conservation and all there is to know about giraffes, why? Because I am an educator – quite a fancy name, in my opinion. The talks happen for the better part of my morning. I might change shifts with the intern at customer care and take over the issuing of pellets to our customers. It is interesting how a communication barrier is never a problem when it comes to food. Most of the time, guests know what to do with the pellets.

Later on, I move to the platform to facilitate the interaction of the guests and the giraffes. Here you will find two groups of people; the First timers who can’t seem to believe that they are up close to a giraffe,(Their eyes are always dreamy like they might have accidentally walked into a magic shop), and then there are the Regulars. These have who mastered their way around the giraffes and even know from experience that giraffe head butts are real. Either way, the fascination in their eyes every single time is priceless.

Someone asked me the other day, “what memories of this place are sure to stick with you even long after your internship?” My answer was obvious – the people. Each day I get an opportunity to interact with different personalities. One may be on a journey of backpacking across Africa; the other could be a couple that decided to take a vacation to Africa right after retirement. They all have fascinating stories to tell. Stories of which I never get enough. Having the ability to interact with these people and listen to their views on various topics has made me more open-minded and liberal, a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.

CEO Giving students seedlings

The other group of people that have made a significant impact in shaping me as a person is the staff at giraffe centre. You see, my view of workspaces was that of a mean boss who seems to have taken a vow to make your life a living hell. At Giraffe Center, the opposite is true. It felt too good to be true at the beginning. But as time went by I learnt that it was the work ethic and the culture of the staff that made this place feel like a home away from home. Their authenticity in helping the interns grow socially, emotionally and professionally is praiseworthy. I, for one, would not hesitate to recommend a friend to work at here. Giraffe Centre indeed  has the one in a million people, wonderful counsellors and genuine friends.

Giving Back

Say one day you are sitting at a café after a long day of work taking iced tea or whatever it is you fancy. Across the road from the restaurant is a curio shop which seems to be having a sale. You’ve never seen a curio shop do promotional sales before,  at least not one with mascots in giraffe and elephant costumes. How do they do it with all that heat – you wonder. Going back to your phone, you hear chatters and giggles. One laugh, in particular, attracts your attention. So you look up and see this group of school kids in hysterics. They look so fascinated by the mascots -I mean their eyes are even sparkling (am just assuming at this point cause how can you possibly see their eyes from across the road in a coffee shop).

They have been standing at the curio shop for almost an hour now. And as you leave to go home, you hear them talk of how they’d love to meet the real giraffes and elephants. The longing in their voices is so overwhelming. It takes you down memory lane. Childhood memories of going for school trips to national parks and how you could not sleep the night before any of these trips. You’d love to give them this experience because every child deserves to be happy.

At the Giraffe centre, we have enjoyed the privilege of bringing smiles to thousands of these children. The inspiration that brought to life our Ecological trips was not just born over a cup of tea but the desire to educate and pass on the knowledge of conservation. So for the last nineteen years, we have committed to taking school children, especially from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds to these day-long trip.

Each year, in partnership with Kerrigan Waves Trust, we take students from  Mukuru Kayaba Primary School to the Ecological trips. These trips’ aim is to learn while having fun as some would call it- edutainment.  It starts with a trip to our centre. Here the kids can feed the giraffes and if lucky kiss them too. The next stop takes us to Mamba Village, which is an Ostrich and Crocodile Farm. Did you know that crocodiles don’t have tongues? And that male Ostriches are called Roasters? Thought you should know, Cool stuff there!

From Mamba Village, the school proceeds to Nairobi Animal Orphanage. Here they see the Big Five animals and many other animals that have been orphaned or injured and are under rehabilitation. It is an amazing sight to come close to a roaring Lion or a panting buffalo. Their final stop is the David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage. Have you seen an elephant up close? They are magnificent creatures. Tender giants of sorts, and quite frankly my bias. The kids learn how emotional and demanding elephants can be, which explains why they are very social.

The day ends with a spectacular meal in which the educators and children interact and share exciting things they learnt from the trip. Eventually,  we take them back to school and wait to read their compositions on that experience. It is a fulfilling job to give back, a habit that should be inculcated in all of us.

Let’s talk Eco-therapy

Eco therapy

The other day I was browsing the internet looking for tips on mindfulness and meditation because hearsay has it that the two help rid us of bad energy and makes us whole again. I admit to being a curious individual in nature and trying out new things is sort of my life’s desideratum. So I kept digging from site to site and came across the concept of Forest Bathing.  Forest Bathing, despite its name,  doesn’t involve anything to do with water. Such a bummer, right? For a second, I was entertaining the idea of going skinny dipping in the woods.

So what is forest bathing you might ask?

Forest Bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku in Japan, is a practise that was first developed in Japan around the 1980s by physicians to help patients improve their health and well being. I don’t know if you know this, but Japan is one of those counties in the world with a strict set of rules for anything and everything. So even though people have been roaming the forests since time immemorial, Japan just had to come up with instructions on how to do the walking while practising Shinrin-yoku.  Because we are all for healing souls and having green time,  I will be your very own Yoga sensei and take you through the process of forest bathing.

The first step is to find yourself a forest with a thick canopy, great news we have one right here at the giraffe centre. As you move into the woods make sure to heighten your senses, I don’t even know how am supposed to do that, but I’ll follow instructions none the less.  Slowly walk while touching the trees, looking at colours and patterns and listening to the chirping of birds. Important to note, like all being- one -with nature activities, cell phones are to be left behind. Give your body a chance to slow down and deeply breathe in the scent of the flowers. This almost sounds like a detergent commercial. At the end of the exercise, lie down under a canopy of trees and watch the colours of the leaves and the sky.

As I was writing this, someone said show don’t  tell. So I decided to go forest bathing to make sure I am feeding my audience with practical knowledge. See, taking a walk is one thing, but doing a Shinrin-yoku is another thing. It takes a great deal of patience and self-control to walk in these woods without a phone or camera because once in a while an exotic bird will start humming right above your head, and you won’t be able to record it. Then instead of focusing on being in the moment, your mind will just keep running back to your phone, at least that’s what happened to me.

While at the forest, I learnt a great deal about the trees, especially the Sycamore Fig ( Mugumo tree). Remember the cursed tree from the bible?, yes that’s the Mugumo tree. This tree for the longest time has been considered as sacred by many tribes from Kenya. 

Its fall is also believed to signify a major event in history is about to take place, whether negative or positive. I saw one fallen on my track, maybe the apocalypse is about to hit.

As forest cover continues to deplete, we pride ourselves here at the giraffe centre for having a natural habitat that still continues to thrive with different species and subspecies. At the end of the nature trail, I did feel much better so we can say the idea of forest bathing  may work. If you don’t make it to our trail,  find yourself a green space to meditate, but if you do, don’t forget to carry your camera- the phone can remain- because you don’t want to miss out on having captured beautiful pictures of birds and Dik Dik’s for your office table.

https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/econature-therapyhttps://www.additudemag.com/green-time-natural-adhd-remedy/https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/08/forest-bathing-japanese-practice-in-west-wellbeinghttps://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ureport/article/2001233703/the-fall-of-mugumo-tree-what-does-it-symbolise

It’s World giraffe Day

Dear Diary,

Today is a good day. Why? You may ask. Well, today is
World’s Giraffe Day, and that makes it as special like Christmas or Hanukkah
for the Jews who pop in here once in a while. We did not have a secret Santa
again this year, so disappointing. One would have thought that after nineteen
years in the wild I’d get used to the way of the jungle, but no, every year I
keep hoping that Santa would stop by with a stack of  Lucerne grass.

Forgive my manners, “je’mappelle Betty, enchante!”
( I am using French cause introductions sound sexier in French) I am the oldest
giraffe here at the giraffe centre. I look at some of the interns my age and
can’t help but wonder why they are so full of life like I was at ten
years.  Now I can feel my knees getting
weaker; my vision is not as sharp as it used to be, the air smells different
each morning. If I could speak my speech would start to get a little slurry,
but you know what, all this is justified because I, my friend, have lived
longer than most of my cousins in the wild.

I like it here. They give us pellets and salt licks on a
daily. But today I don’t feel particularly motivated to eat pellets and salt
licks. I mean if I did, then what would make this day different from any other
day. I have made peace with the fact that Santa is never going to pop up here,
so the least my human friends can do is feed me a different treat.

Link to Giraffe Centre day to day activities

I did have Rhus today, quite a delicious treat and not very common around here. I must say I was impressed by the rangers. So even when they hit their buckets of pellets calling unto us, I heeded. The day is almost coming to an end. I can see the sun setting leaving an orange layer of rays on the Ng’ong hills. It is a beautiful life, and I am happy. Tomorrow the cycle repeats itself but yet another opportunity to meet people from different walks of life at the platform.

Yours faithfully,

Betty, the giraffe.

Live and Let Live

What comes to your mind when you hear that phrase?

Talk about a live band singing to the beauty of the African giraffe under a sycamore tree watching the beautiful sunset (ooh yes the sunset has to be there because without it, what Africa are you talking about?)

Maybe the concept is a bit far-stretched, but you get my point. This world would be so lackluster if man were the only species inhabiting it. The beauty of it all that makes living worthwhile is the incessant chirping of birds, the joy of clean air and the smell of the rain. So the idea of us living to uphold another life is more like the Dominos effect- which essentially means that everything we do ultimately affects our coexistence in one way or another.

Our Annual National Environmental Awareness Competition all stems from this concept. As we all know, our world is moving towards a crisis, a crisis of survival and sustainability. So what better way to create awareness on Sustainable Environmental Conservation if not the young generation?

This Friday, 7th June 2019, we see Winners of the National Environmental Awareness Competition showcase their brilliance. Ranging from artwork to excellent essays, we see the ingenuity of every individual’s approach in achieving a common goal of Environmental conservation.

In the spirit of Eid Mubarak, stay tuned as we unleash the Arts in Conservation!

2019 Environmental Competition Results

Every year, AFEW Giraffe Centre gives Kenyan students an opportunity to express their thoughts on a given topic. They do so through essays and art in a highly competitive environmental competition that runs from January to March every year.

This year we’ve seen wonderful entries from students and pupils all over the country.

To know the winners of this year’s competition, please click here.

Your Opinion


For the past six months, AFEW Giraffe Centre has made some changes in the delivery of service to you our esteem visitors.
We would like to get your views on our service delivery.
Kindly please fill the survey form . we look forward for your views, comments and reviews


Kelly’s Fifth Born

Good day today it is. It’s not normal to witness a new born Giraffe Calf.

But this is no ordinary birth. Kelly is a legend already, this is her 5th born calf. Normally, giraffe’s gestation period is 15 months, but Kelly here did 17 months. That’s two whole months extra. Giraffes do this when they feel like the environment they are in is not conducive for giving birth. In this case, this would probably be because of the delayed rainy season.

So giraffes too are thrilled for the rain. Congratulation to Kelly.

Tree planting

Somewhere in Kenya, there is a family with considerable acres of land. During the planting seasons, this family made it a habit to distribute some of their seeds to the neighbors for planting. Weird I know. When asked why, the head of that family answered that it is a strategy to make sure that his land produces quality produce during the time of harvest.

Here’s why….

Tree planting is not as easy as we tend to believe. Having a good tree nursery goes beyond just planting and watching them grow. It is a process that needs a lot of concentration and guidance from the experts of trees. Here in Kenya, the experts being KeFRI (Kenya Forest and Research Institute), are highly equipped with knowledge on how to have a healthy tree nursery and ways to make sure that the posterity of the trees are assured.

Did you know that for a tree nursery to be viewed as properly made, the owner need to have information the following:-

  • Where the seeds were found.
  • A good label of the scientific name of the tree seedlings.

Knowing where the seeds are have been found helps a lot in knowing the kind issues the batch might be having. This means, collecting seeds in the field and planting them does not qualify as a good seed bed. Why?

There are rules to be followed in the collection of the seeds to assure that:-

  • You do not get the same family of seeds as this would lead to issues with how the plants grow. Think of it like incest, for a good seedling to be productive during transplant, you need different families in the bed so that during pollination, if any of the families in the seedling would, for example, had a stunted growth, during pollination, that problem can be well neutralized.  To help solve that, when collecting seeds for yourself, have like 30 meters interval. Why 30 meters you ask? During pollination, the pollen can only travel up to 30 meters. Past that, it gets void and can not be used for pollinating another plant.

So, if we go back to our story, the family did that practice to ensure that in case there was cross pollination between their crops, they’ll still get a quality produce as they were sure of the seeds planted by their neighbors.