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Perpetuating the species.

When African travelers think of fine cuisine, the name 'Carnivore' instantly comes to mind as one of the best dining facilities on the continent, but it is not widely known that the restaurant is also be known for its animal conservation efforts.

From its opening day in September, 1980, the Carnivore Restaurant, located on the outer edge of Nairobi, Kenya, has often been called 'Africa's Greatest Dining Experience' and it has twice been voted among the best of its kind by Restaurant Magazine.

The entire experience at the Carnivore is designed to take the city diner into the bush on a safari. The dining room, with its zebra striped chairs, is open to a central courtyard filled with gardens and a stream. The food, usually large hunks of meat, cooked over a wood fire pit, is served by waiters on gleaming Maasai spears, and sliced, by the piece, at each table with a razor sharp bush knife. For this diner it was like stepping into a Hemingway novel, only tastier. But safaris are no fun without animals, and that is what this story is all about.

From its inception, the Carnivore had been known for serving 'Big Game' meats, such as wildebeest, zebra, crocodile, gazelle, and even camel, (Africa has the world's largest population of wild camels, over 15,000,000,) and the public, fascinated with the exotic and unknown, flocked to eat such delicacies. But that was changed in recent years when the government, alarmed by a decline in its indigenous herds, banned the consumption of certain game meats in an effort to stop poaching.

It was during that time that the Carnivore went a step further, putting their money where their mouth was, by voluntarily offering to remove certain meats from their dining menu before being ordered to do so by the government, and working closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service to monitor population levels of species whose numbers were falling. According to the restaurant's manager, Aloys Onchuru, this voluntary action has made the Carnivore a pioneer in the restaurant business, and taking the lead in the anti-poaching campaign that is continuing to spread throughout all of Kenya.

Is there irony in a restaurant known for serving meat, aiding a campaign to stop the killing of animals? Not at all according to Mr. Onchuru.

In so many words, he made it clear that it is not logical to keep serving meats of endangered species, as sooner or later they will be depleted and disappear totally. If this were to happen he felt the restaurant would be complicit in their annihilation, but by voluntarily abstaining from serving certain meats, the restaurant is directly contributing to the perpetuation of those animals. It all comes down to a matter of education and tweaking a culture, that for centuries had so much game available that it never before had to think about conserving it for future use.

Recent studies have shown that many species are rebounding under this new protection, and with the monitoring of population levels, certain types of game meats may be added or removed from the restaurant's menu accordingly, allowing the herds to reach levels necessary for the perpetuation of the species. Certain popular meats such as crocodile, ostrich, and camel, have long been farmed and because of their overabundance, are still offered by the Carnivore, but other, more 'exotic' animals such as wildebeest, gazelle, and zebra, are not being served now because the herd levels are not sufficiently high to allow for them to be commercially consumed. So the Carnivore goes with the flow, its current menu dictated by current herd population counts.

Poaching remains a serious problem not just in Kenya, but throughout all of Africa, wherever there are wild animals. Elephants and rhinos lead the list of most killed animals because they are considered 'trophies.' Elephant ivory commands high prices on the black market while many people believe rhino horns to have both medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties, but poaching numbers for most other 'game' animals are declining, and at least part of the reason for this success is because of both public education and the voluntary refusal to serve such meats by places such as the Carnivore.

Mr. Onchuru admits that the restaurants business had suffered a bit when this policy first went into effect, but now, with people becoming more enlightened as to the plight of their natural resources, public demand for those meats has fallen accordingly. Hopefully this will have a domino effect, as other public institutions join in the effort.

The Carnivore still offers a vast array of meats such as turkey, chicken, beef, and sausages, but the 'exotic' game meats will come and go accordingly. During the writing of this story several waiters confided that many customers have offered their congratulations on this policy, even those who miss eating, 'the big 5,' and feel that it is a big step in the right direction.

The game herds of East Africa will most likely never reach the numbers that once filled the savannahs, but with businesses like the Carnivore helping to educate and lead the way, most of her wild animals should still be around for generations to come.

If You Go: The Carnivore Restaurant is located on Langata Road directly next door to Wilson Airport, about a fifteen minute drive from downtown Nairobi. Every cab driver in the city knows how to get there.

Telephone numbers are (020) 6005933-7 and (020) 600276-4. Reservations are recommended, especially at night or on weekends.

E-mail, is reservations.carnivore@tamarind.co.ke.

There is also a wonderful gift store and adjoining bar area.

James Michael Dorsey is an award winning author, explorer, photographer, and lecturer who has traveled extensively in 46 countries. He has spent the past two decades researching remote cultures around the world. His work can be seen on the web at jamesdorsey.com.
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Title Annotation:LIFE; Carnivore Restaurant of Kenya
Author:Dorsey, James
Publication:World and I
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Dec 1, 2016
Words:980
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