Leslie-Melville, Betty 1929–2005

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Leslie-Melville, Betty 1929–2005

(Betty McDonnell)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born March 29, 1929, in Baltimore, MD; died of complications from dementia, September 23, 2005, in Baltimore, MD. Conservationist and author. Leslie-Melville was best known for her work in Kenya to preserve endangered Rothschild giraffes. In her early years, her plans were far removed from a life of wildlife conservation. After attending Johns Hopkins University, she worked as the president of a nursery school in the early 1950s and was a fashion model from 1953 to 1960. Her introduction to Kenya came about in 1958, when she first visited the country to see a friend. Immediately enchanted, she decided to move there in 1960. She and her husband founded Bruce Safaris, a non-hunting tourist expedition company they ran until 1965. By this time, her marriage had ended in divorce and she married Jock Leslie-Melville, the grandson of a Scottish earl. Upon moving into a manor house, the couple was regularly visited by wild giraffes. Aware that the subspecies of giraffe known as the Rothschild had become dangerously imperiled, Leslie-Melville established the Giraffe Center in Nairobi to protect them from extinction. Thanks to this effort, the Rothschild giraffes' numbers slowly increased from a low of only about 120 animals to over 300. After her husband died in 1984, Leslie-Melville turned the sanctuary over to her son and moved back to America. She remarried and continued to write about Africa and raise money for her cause. Among the books she wrote are There's a Rhino in the Rosebud, Mother (1975), Daisy Rothschild (1987), and The Autobiography of Betty Leslie-Melville (1997). Her story was also related in the 1979 television movie Raising Daisy Rothschild, which is also the title of one of her books. Although the filming was an experience she would later recount as a terrible chapter in her life—two giraffes died at the hands of an animal trainer—this one bleak occurrence was overshadowed by Leslie-Melville's accomplishments preserving endangered giraffes.



Leslie-Melville, Betty, The Autobiography of Betty Leslie-Melville, Upland (Baltimore, MD), 1997.


Guardian (London, England), October 11, 2005, p. 37.

Independent (London, England), October 18, 2005, p. 59.

Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2005, p. B9.

New York Times, October 4, 2005, p. C19.

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Leslie-Melville, Betty 1929–2005

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