21 October 2014

Giraffe Kisses

While in Nairobi my friends also took me to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife; more well-know as the Giraffe Center.

No adoptions here but lots of incredible one-on-one time with beautiful giraffes! One of the Giraffe Center's roles is the conservation and expanding the gene pool of the Rothschild Giraffe. You can see the difference between the Rothschild and Reticulated giraffes in my previous posts:

  • Regular shaped spots with clear white outlining
  • Pattern often extends down the leg

  • Less regular pattern than the Reticulated; splotchy like the Masai giraffe
  • Paler coat than the Masai giraffe
  • White stocking; below the knees there is no pattern on their legs
  • Only giraffe sub species with five ossicones (ie the bumpy horny doo dads) on its head
  • Taller than many other sub species at 6 meters (20 feet)

Not different though are their appetites and tongues! At the Center you can hand feed pellets to the giraffes and get your hand slimy and slobbered on by their long, black tongues.

I learned a lot of interesting things about giraffes here. For example, unlike the elephant which really does have a long memory, giraffes have limited short term memory and forget things within minutes. heir memories are so short that after five minutes of running away from a predator they'll forget why they're running and stop to graze again.

Even if a lion catches up it's apparently not much of a problem. Giraffe leg bones are solid, they have no marrow. I was able to handle a leg bone and it was shockingly heavy. They use these solid legs for kicking other animals. A well-placed kick is not just a deterrent but could even kill another animal.

Possibly most amazing is that giraffes can delay giving birth for up to three months. I've never bee pregnant but my first reaction to hearing this was horror. With a normal gestation period of 15 months (!) why on earth would any creature want to delay that?! So they can give birth in a safe, predator free, hopefully vegetation rich area. That did not even occur to me. Brilliant.

Kisses from Lynn

The Center is home to nine giraffes, two bulls and seven cows that have lived there for their entire life. They do breed but calves are released into the wild at the age two. The Center is partially responsible for raising the amount of Rothschilds in the wild from just a few hundred to 1200...which still makes them endangered. Because the nine have been here for their entire lives though they are very accustomed to people and eagerly eat pellets from your hand; just be sure to hold the pellet properly or you could lose a finger!

And then there's Lynn. Lynn is 18 and is one of the friendlier giraffes; she gives kisses. If you hold a pellet gently between your lips she'll use her mobile, flexible lips to take it from you. Thankfully, on many levels, there is no tongue involved! Something I've never realized though is that giraffes have very whiskery chins. So no slobber but I did get a little whisker burn!

20 October 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Kirte

Suvla has two Kirtes. A while back I reviewed the other Kirte (a Cabernet Sauvingnon, Syrah, Petit Verdot blend) and last week I picked up the other at the Suvla shop in Cihangir. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc blend.

And wow. I did not think I would like this one as much because, you know, Merlot. Ick. But if the Merlot had anything to do with the flavor of this Kirte I may even be moved to try Suvla's Merlot varietal.This Kirte isn't as pretty as a couple of the previous reds, it's more of a murky garnet red.

Although frankly, the flavor of anything is going to be massively enhanced if you're simultaneously enjoying the sunset and view out my window!

The Kirte's nose was richly red (which I've decided is a thing) especially with  cherries and something else...raspberry, maybe? If the nose made me smile, the flavor made me sing. Although not really because my cat really isn't a fan of my singing.

From the first sip the Kirte explodes with fruit! Every word I have to describe the Kirte is followed by an exclamation mark: Fruity! Juicy! Berries! Cherries! The palate is saved from being glorified juice (although darn good juice) by the subtle, but solid back bone of spice that gently lets you know its there right at the end of the sip. It doesn't have the most remarkable finish, (this) Kirte is more about the now...but now is a very good with this wine, especially at only about 41TL for the bottle.

For the Americans out there, I found out that Suvla has a store front in New York! You should check it out-you won't be sorry!

18 October 2014

Anyone Want to Adopt an Elephant?

I might need two posts for this. We were only at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for an hour, which is all the time it's open each day, and I took over 500 pictures. Not hard to do because the center's youngest rescue, Mbegu, is the cutest thing.

I could have watched her try to crawl out of the mud pit forever.

She face planted a lot. This little girl is totally my spirit animal. I like to think that I'm one of the big cats, especially since I'm a Leo and all...but Mbegu and I share the inability to stay on our own two (or four in her case) feet.

Then just as she managed to get out...she turned around and splashed right back in!

The David Sheldrick center functions as an orphanage for elephants cross Kenya. After they're rescued they live at the orphanage until they're about five years old and then are released, usually in Tsavo, where they find and attach themselves to a herd as an adopted family. All the elephants received bottled formula hourly but babies get fed whenever the heck they want. As such, the guys who work with them live on site, many of them sleep in the stalls with the elephants. However no one person works continuously with one elephant so the animals don't get attached and/or too accustomed to people. It's for that same reason that the center is open for only one hour a day.

Mbegu again-seriously the rest may as well not have been there

It costs about $900 per day per elephant to take care of them and the orphanage does not limit how many they take in. At the time of my visit I believe there were 26. To offset the cost there is of course an entrance fee, which is surprisingly minimal (1000 Kenyan Schillings ($10) I think it was) but the main sources of funding come from donations and adoptions. You can adopt any one of the elephants and check up on its progress on the center's website. I of course adopted Mbegu :)

Love how they use their knees

Face plant again

The day we visited there were also several schools making a visit. My friends and I marveled at the students as much as we did the elephants. The center's rules are pretty simple: no cell phone use, only touch the elephants if they come near the rope, and do not talk or make noise. No American five year old that I have ever been around, let alone 50-60 of them could keep quiet for 10 minutes but these little kids were quiet and still for a full hour. They were better behaved than a lot of the visiting adults. It was kind of amazing.

Check out all the pictures of Mbegu and the other orphaned elephants on our Google+ and Facebook pages!

15 October 2014

Safariing in Samburu

Now is the time to smoosh together everything that's not an elephant, giraffe, lion, or zebra; which stills leaves a lot of interesting things!


The most easily spotted animals were baboons and the various antelope. Baboons really are wretchedly ugly creatures. I feel predisposed to disliking them as they're known for attacking leopards when really I think things should go the other way around. We did see a few baby baboons though which were proof positive that babies are always adorable; even if they grow up to be ugly.

I love the bird nests in these trees

There were so many types of antelopes! Waterbucks, gerenuks also called giraffe antelopes because of their very long necks, gazelles, oryx, and dik-diks. The miniature dik-diks were my favorite of the antelopes. At only 14-17 inches tall and weighing in at 12 pounds these little guys are smaller than my mom's Pomeranian. And the horns on the males are so tiny it was sometimes hard to spot them. They mate for life so you (almost) always see them in pairs or maybe in trios if they have off spring. Our guide told us that when one of the pair dies the other dies of loneliness within six months.

Trying to hang on!

Oryx mixing with the baboons

I also enjoyed the oryx, not only because it made me think of Margaret Atwood's excellent Oryx and Crake (which I freely admit I understood not in the least but still enjoyed) but because I was fascinated by their horns. Growing up in the country around hunters I'm well accustomed to seeing deer about; although usually dead on the side of the road or hanging in my dad's barn. I always refused to go in his barn during bow or gun season because you never knew when or what might be hanging there. Shudder.

No idea what's going on here

All I could think when I saw these was "yum"

We also saw lots of birds, most of which I wasn't able to photograph properly. I did get a shot of a horn bill and that sighting alone made my Lion King watching prep worth the time!

We didn't see many gerenuks but they're rather interesting

More bird nests

I was kind of obsessed with these trees!

Even when we weren't spotting animals I wasn't bored because the scenery was remarkable on its own.

Horn bill

Water buck

Water bucks again

More water buck

Adorable dik-diks
This was truly an amazing trip worth waiting 35 years to experience. Of course now I want to go to Tsavo which is known for its cat sightings or to the Serengeti in Kenya or Tanzania. Next time though, I will definitely spring for the telephoto lens before I go!

Me safari ready!