Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kenyan Diary - highlighting Giraffe Centre

Kenya Giraffe Centre
Writing from ACK Guesthouse, Nairobi, Kenya. I came to Kenya to provide support to Kenya that works in collaboration with MRC in some medical studies.. I flew a long distance from West Africa to East Africa airborne 11 hours. The journey was long and tiresome but had good and friendly reception here and so had a chance to relax over the tireness.

This is my second visit to the city after one and half years. Not much change I observed, not much expected either. Weather is still nice and wonderful. No need of fan or AC, on the other hand, no need to wear heavy clothes either. Just a cool weather.

We made a plan to visit some places this Saturday and the next Saturday. We were - me, Moses, Kajungu and Boaz - all of us from KAVI (Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative). I am a temporary worker here. We started in the morning. The first thing to visit was the Giraffe Centre, then Uhuru Garden and then some local shops to buy something.

Kenya follows right-hand drive, the same as Britain. That is, the driver drives on the right side of the car and cars drive on the left side of the road. Also this is the same as in Bangladesh. There are some interesting facts about the left-hand drive and right-hand drives. Long ago, when there were no vehicles and most people are right-handed, they preferred to walk or ride on horse and move along the left side of the road. This is because, they wanted to have their right arm free (since right-handed) so that they can get their sword out deftly and use it against an enemy coming from the other side (if any). Well, you can google over it anyway.

We fell in terrible traffic jam on roads. But still better than jam in Dhaka city. Also roads are wider and provision is kept for making wider in future unlike Dhaka. But cars are increasing in number as days go by. The Giraffe Centre was about 24 km far from the city centre. Thanks to Prof. Walter to provide us with a car at my request.

The Giraffe Centre was founded in 1979 by Mr. Melvile with a vision to educate young people and also to rescue endangered Rothschild Giraffe. Entrance fee was 700 KES for me (about 10 USD). I tried to pretend as a local (many continental people live in Kenya), but failed since I don't know the local Swahili language. So I had to pay the foreign fee for entrance. But anyway, seeing the giant quadruped from heart's distance was a fabulous experience, and the ticket price might be worth of it.

There are three types of giraffe - Reticulated Giraffe, Rothschild Giraffe and Maasai Giraffe. The Giraffe Center takes care of the Rothschild Giraffe. The Maasai Giraffe is the biggest one; it's height reaches up to 21 feet.

Giraffe is a friendly animal. With its long neck and very big eyes, it can see it's surrounding well. There are a few predators of giraffe. Lions, leopards and hyenas are some of them. If it faces an attack, it runs. If fails, then it makes a powerful kick with its hind legs. The legs are big and strong enough to kill a lion if the kick is sharp enough. Also it runs as fast as 60 kmph. In videos, its running movement seems to be slow, but really it runs as fast as 60 kmph, not a bad run. It sleeps standing with eyes open.

There is an urban legend in some places that claims a giraffe has two hearts - one near mouth inside throat and one at the end of neck between the front legs. The legend is not true in that it does not have a heart at mouth. But its heart is at the end of the neck where breast is. The heart is 2 ft x 1 ft and weighs 11 kg.

A giraffe in care can survive up to 38 years. The one in wild survives up to 20 years only. This is due to the fact that its visibility reduces after 18 years and then becomes vulnerable to prey.

The gestational period of a giraffe is 15 months, the legs of the baby comes out first and then head. It drops down from 6/7 feet and sometimes dies due to neck break. During labor a giraffe tries to find out a soft place where the baby might get less hurt. But sometimes it fails to find out when predators are around. The baby giraffe is about 2 meters high and 70 to 100 kg in weight. It stays with mother for two years.

There is a free walk inside forest just opposite to the giraffe park. We went down trekking and found a small 'dic dic' and some birds. When one comes back from trekking, s/he needs to sign a book and describe the animals s/he saw. This may be a good thing to keep in knowledge about the habitat of the forest.

The other place we went was Uhuru Garden. This is the place where Kenya earned freedom from British reign somewhere in 1960's decade. It has a giant monument with some sculptures around. The design is nice. There is another place named Uhuru Park where we went last time.

Just had a brief peep into the national park. The ticket price for foreigners is a bit high. There are three things to visit inside - the orphanage where wild animals are kept inside cages. It costs 15 USD for foreigners. The wild safari costs 40 USD for foreigners. The other thing is the safari walk that shows many harbivorous animals on way. That costs 20 USD for foreigners. For natives all prices are not more than 2/3 USD. We are holding the safari for the next week.

From descriptions, it seems the wild safari is a bit discouraging. It is because, most predators are nocturnal and in daytime they mostly sleep inside jungle. People have to have a very good eyesight and need of binoculars are well-appreciated. So I am thinking how much worth it would be to spend 40 USD just to move around a deserted jungle.

Kenya has two national languages - Swahili and English. I found three words in Swahili language (Kenya has two national languages - Swahili and English) common with Bengali language.

'Chabi' is in both languages and means the same - key.
'Paisa' is in both languages and means the same - money.
'Gari' is in both languages and means the same - car.

The most common Swahili words that every foreigner learns here are the swahili of 'Thank You' and 'Welcome'. In swahili they are 'Asante' and 'Karibu' respectively. There are two other common words/sentences in Swahili - 'hakuna matata' to mean 'no problem' and 'jumbo' to mean 'hello'.

Ok that's for this week's visits. Hope to spend some more time in the next week to describe some more of Kenya. Sorry for the long writing - it's a traveller's diary anyway... :)

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