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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teenager revives British ancestors' tradition by learning to ride six-foot GIRAFFE on his farm in South Africa

By Emma Reynolds

Baby steps: Shandor Larenty is slowly teaching three-month-old Mara to be ridden by humans - and learning the forgotten art himself

This is the teenager who has revived a surprising tradition that was the norm for his British ancestors - riding giraffes.

Shandor Larenty, 17, has raised baby giraffe Mara on his farm in South Africa since she was born, and is now training the three-month-old to be ridden by humans.

Shandor's great uncle Terry was a circus performer in 1950's Chipperfield, Hertfordshire and the only person known at the time to have the ability to ride a giraffe.

Mutually beneficial: Shandor says that riding a giraffe is an 'incredible' experience and that it will help keep Mara fit and healthy

Now Mara - who is six-and-a-half feet-tall - is taking 'baby steps' as she learns the ropes at Lion Park, near Johannesburg.

Shandor believes the exercise will keep his pet fit and healthy into old age.
He also has an adult pet giraffe called Purdy, who is 18-foot-tall and, like Mara, was abandoned as a child.

'Mara and Purdy are like best friends to me,' said Shandor. 'When I get home from going out Purdy comes running up to me to say hello.

'She knows her name and will come to me when she is called.

Best mates: The 17-year-old has raised Mara since she was born at Lion Farm near Johannesburg, where he grew up

High times: Shandor rides his giraffe, left, just as his great uncle Terry did in Britain in the 1950s, right

'The temperament of a pet giraffe is very gentle and they are great companions.

'We look after them carefully - as an adult, Purdy is happy to eat from trees most of the time.

'But to give you an idea of how much food they need - Mara is still a baby and eats a dozen egg yolks a day as well as 12 litres of milk.'

Shandor and Purdy enjoy an outdoor breakfast together, with the giraffe devouring his favourite snack - vegetable pellets - from his owner's hand.

The teenager is now learning to ride a giraffe in what could be the first time anyone has attempted the feat in generations.

Tall tale: The farm's other giraffe, 13-year-old Purdy, greets Shandor as he arrives home after a day out

Whatever necks? Purdy is 18-foot tall and beyond learning to be ridden, so he and Shandor share an outdoor breakfast, play Monopoly together and read

'It's an incredible sensation to be on the back of a giraffe,' said Shandor.

'For Mara this is excellent stimulation and will keep her fit and healthy into her adult life.

'But it's very much about baby steps at the moment - as she is still so young.

'I only ever approach her to sit on her back when she let's me know she is comfortable with it.

'And I just sit on her at the moment - she doesn't travel anywhere with me on her back yet.

'Not only am I keeping Mara happy and stimulated, but I'm also bringing a rarely seen family tradition back to life.'



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