In order to save the sub-species Rothschild giraffe, Betty Leslie-Melville, an American living in Nairobi, Kenya founded AFEW USA in 1977. Her British-born Kenyan-citizen husband, Jock, founded AFEW Kenya, a charitable, non-profit organization. Together, they raised money in the United States, which was sent to AFEW Kenya to monitor the expenditure and ensure the successful translocation of these giraffe.
Earlier, they had discovered that there were only 130 left on an 18,000-acre cattle ranch in Western Kenya. To settle landless people in that heavily populated area of Kenya, the government decided to subdivide the ranch into 5-acre agricultural plots, which would have been the end of the Rothschilds.
Fortunately, a military threat from Uganda caused the government to divide only half the ranch and to build an army base in the other. This gave Betty and Jock the time to have four breeding groups moved to the safety of four national parks. There are now over 350 in safe areas. In 1974, when the discovery was made, they moved two young giraffes to their home in a suburb of Nairobi -- to create awareness.
They wrote a book, Raising Daisy Rothschild, about their experiences. The book was made into a TV film, The Last Giraffe. More giraffe were moved to their property to act for the two who were now older and maturing. Suddenly, there seemed to be a lot of giraffe on the property which gave Jock the idea to build an education centre so Kenyan school children could have the opportunity to visit the giraffe and receive conservation education.
In 1980, they raised the funds in the United States to build the centre. Tragically, Jock was discovered to have brain cancer in early 1981. He lived for three and a half years after surgery but he was in and out of nursing homes, which had Betty occupied full-time.
In 1983, Betty asked her eldest son, Rick Anderson, to join AFEW USA and to see the Giraffe Centre was built. Betty and Rick continue to lead AFEW USA and guide AFEW Kenya -- the propreitor of the Giraffe Centre.
Over the years AFEW USA has purchased for AFEW Kenya, 60 surrounding acres and is paying mortgage on 40 more acres to create a sanctuary for the giraffe and preserve a section of this habitat in Nairobi. Due to the popularity of the Giraffe Centre for local and international visitors, AFEW Kenya is now self-sufficient. The revenue for the entrance fees for the general public allows school children to visit for free.
Every year between 30,000 and 40,000 Kenya students experience the magic of being eyeball to eyeball and feeding the giraffe. Another 30,000 to 40,000 "general public" visit annually.
AFEW USA is a major supporter of the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK), a national club network in secondary and primary schools that leads in conservation education. AFEW USA is presently contributing to the WCK’s Endowment Fund, which will lead to its self-sufficiency.
AFEW USA is also supporting an organization called "Osienala" (Friends of Lake Victoria in the local language) created by a group of local scientists, professors and businessmen who recognised the threat to Lake Victoria. The second biggest lake in the world which is depended upon by 30 million people, faces numerous conservation threats. Without Osienala, Lake Victoria could easily become a disaster.
AFEW USA is also about to get back into giraffe translocation buisness. Genetic diversity requires exchange between the breeding groups established years ago, and hopefully soon re-introduction to Uganda will be possible.
AFEW USA consists of 2000 supporters, individuals and families. All of the kind people listed on AFEW’s letterhead, Directors and members, contribute their time and efforts voluntarily and many contribute financially. Betty Harrison, the CEO, receives a modest salary and administers the foundation free from her house. In 1997, AFEW USA raised $108,000. Combined administration and fund raising expenses totalled $27,000 . That equates to 80 cents on the dollar for program support. In 1998, AFEW raised $159,000 and total expenses came to only $26,000. AFEW USA is creating a lot of long-lasting value, inexpensively.
AFEW Kenya consists of a membership of 20 individuals who meet annually to elect a rotating set of 7 directors and to approve the accounts. The Board of Directors meets regularly to oversee the administration of the Giraffe Centre. Betty is a member and Rick is a director.
AFEW Kenya employs 19 Kenyans from Manager to cleaner. AFEW Kenya raises revenue by charging an entrance fee to the general public, from profits from the gift shop and teahouse, as well as contributions collected in the donation boxes. This allows AFEW Kenya to receive school groups free of charge.
Recent improvements on the Centre complex assisted by support from AFEW USA include a double classroom each capable of seating 125 students, new toilet facilities, and a small office building. In addition to films and lectures, school groups take a guided nature walk through the 100-acre Jock Leslie-Melville Sactuary.
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