Giraffe Manor is a small hotel in the Lang'ata suburb of Nairobi, Kenya which, together with its associated Giraffe Centre, serves as a home to a number of endangered Rothschild giraffes, and operates a breeding programme to reintroduce breeding pairs back into the wild to secure the future of the subspecies.
The Manor was modelled on a Scottish hunting lodge, and was constructed in 1932 by Sir David Duncan, a member of the Mackintosh family, of Mackintosh's Toffee fame, originally sitting on 150 acres (61 ha) of land running down to the Mbagathi River, the southern boundary of the city of Nairobi. In the 1960s the Manor was purchased by a local investor who leased it to a succession of people, including the late Dennis Lakin, before it fell into disrepair, unoccupied.
In 1974, the Manor was purchased by Betty Leslie Melville and her husband Jock, along with 15 acres (6.1 ha) of the original 150 acres (0.61 km2). Since then a further 60 acres (24 ha) of those have also been purchased, which along with an additional 40 acres (16 ha) gifted by Peter Beard which used to form part of his "Hog Ranch" has brought the total acreage of the Manor up to 115 acres (47 ha).
Life as a giraffe sanctuary
Shortly after purchasing the Manor, the Leslie Melvilles learned that the only remaining Rothschild giraffes in Kenya were in danger due to a compulsory purchase by the Kenyan government of an 18,000-acre (73 km2) privately owned ranch at Soy, near Eldoret, which was the Rothschilds' sole habitat in Kenya. Inevitably the government's purchase would result in the land being sub-divided into smallholdings, and the giraffe being slaughtered.
Since the Manor was already home to three wild bull giraffes (nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry), the Leslie-Melvilles agreed to rehome one of the giraffe, an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m), 450-pound baby they named Daisy, about whom Betty subsequently wrote the book "Raising Daisy Rothschild," later turned into the film The Last Giraffe.
Daisy was soon joined by another baby giraffe, Marlon (named after Marlon Brando), and since then the Manor, in conjunction with locations such as Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire, England, has run a breeding programme to reintroduce the Rothschild giraffe into the wild to expand the gene pool. At any one time the Manor has around a dozen giraffes in residence, although at present there are only eight, and part of the land of the Manor is given over to the Giraffe Centre, run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, a charitable organisation set up by the Leslie Melvilles and Betty's daughter in 1972. By tradition the giraffe themselves are named after individuals who have contributed significantly (whether financially or otherwise) to the work of AFEW, such as Lynn, named for author and journalist Lynn Sherr, a giraffe devotee who wrote an entire book devoted to the creature.
Life as a hotel
In 1983 Rick Anderson (Betty's son) and his wife moved onto the "Giraffe Manor Hotel" property to take over management of Giraffe Manor as a small, private hotel where guests could feed the giraffe from their breakfast table, through the front door, and out of their 2nd story bedroom window. The Manor has twelve bedrooms, one of which is furnished with the belongings of famous writer Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen).
Over the years the Manor has welcomed guests such as Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Ellie Goulding, Naomi Watts, Eddie Vedder and Walter Cronkite (after whom one of the Manor's resident warthogs was named), Johnny Carson, 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.
- Leslie-Melville, B and J: Raising Daisy Rothschild, page 2. Penguin Books, 1977.
- "The Last Giraffe". 7 June 1979 – via www.imdb.com.
- Mail Foreign Service (22 July 2009). "This isn't Giraffe Cafe! Massive animal sticks his neck out to join family for breakfast at manor house". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- "Betty Leslie-Melville". Telegraph.co.uk. 3 October 2005. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- Lynn Sherr: Tall Blondes. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1997
- "To the Manor Born". Vanity Fair. October 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- "Something Strange Going on Here! Who Is Truthful? from Bikes in the Fast Lane". News.motorbiker.org. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- "Family shares breakfast table in Africa with giraffes". Telegraph. 21 July 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- Sawasawa.com. "Giraffe Manor". Tamimi East Africa. Archived from the original on 1 September 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, Raising Daisy Rothschild, Warner Books (1979) ISBN 0-446-89948-8
- Lynn Sherr, Tall Blondes, A Book about Giraffes, Andrews McMeel (1997) ISBN 0-8362-2769-7