Nature Tuesday: The Giraffe Kiss

A few years ago, I had a photo of a girl kissing with a giraffe as my wallpaper.

Then about two years after that when we were thinking about going to Africa, our travel agent Susan Weisberg suggested that we visited Karen Blixen’s Museum in Nairobi, Kenya, the historic home of the Danish of author of “Out of Africa.” Next to it is the Giraffe Center, home to several endangered Rothschild Giraffes. There are only a few hundred left in the world, mostly because their natural habitat is in Kenya and Uganda, and even though they are protected, conservation in volatile political environments is hard.

An easy way to tell them  the Rothschilds from other giraffes? They have no markings on their lower legs, making them look like they wear white stockings.

At the Center, there’s a special platform for getting close to giraffes and being at their eye level. But how do you get one to kiss you?

“Take a piece of giraffe food into your mouth,” suggested B.

“You mean you want me to taste their food?” I wasn’t convinced. Somehow the kiss itself didn’t seem gross but the dry food did.

“To him, it will be like getting fed from a hand,” B said.

I took a deep breath, placed the end of a dry giraffe pellet between by teeth, and made sure it stuck out far enough for the animal to be able to grab it. And stuck my head out.

Within seconds, the giraffe came up close and with its warm tongue, rough like sand paper, licked off the food and sent it right into its mouth. It felt more determined, practiced and also gentler than my first human kiss.

Afterwards, the giraffe didn’t go away and even let me pet its soft furry nose.

“Why did you close your eyes?” B. wanted to know.

“Because I always close my eyes when I kiss.”

giraffe kiss at karen blixen giraffe center nairobi kenya


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