Kids in Alton build giraffe for kids in Africa

November 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

In the village of Alton at 7 Davis Drive stands a 16-foot-high Giraffe, made entirely of recycled materials, named Marlyn. He was built by twin teenagers, Rebecca and Rachel Bordonali and their father.

The overall objective of this project is to educate kids on conservation and raise money for the children living between Kenya and Tanzania.

The funds go to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), which has a huge presence in Africa. This branch is based in Tanzania. What is known about this area is that people hunt for wildlife as meat.

The money will be used to sponsor field trips for kids to see giraffes and other wildlife with the AWF, in the Tsavo West National Park, close to where they live and to sponsor Environmental Clubs at local schools, providing the instruction and the materials they will need, such as notebooks, pencils and the like.

The goal is to raise $20,000. 

Here is how and why:

Having earned her Bachelor’s in Biology and Master’s degree in Genetics from University of Toronto, at the age of 23, Anne Innis Dagg went to South Africa to stay as a guest [in return for clerical work on the family business] on a citrus farm in the 1950’s. She went to study giraffes in the wild because she loved and was fascinated by them. To facilitate her travels and ambitions, Ms. Dagg purchased a Ford Prefect in South Africa, a humble green vehicle in which to drive across rough tracks and park under the acacia trees, where she could sit and take notes, observing the wondrous, strange and gentle animals, the tallest in the world.

The extensive notes she made over the year she was there eventually led her to be regarded as the champion and the world’s foremost expert of giraffes, which are now considered seriously endangered in the wild. She was the first woman – the first person – to study wildlife in Africa in the wild. She returned to Canada and married Ian Dagg and went on to earn her PhD in Animal Behaviour at the University of Guelph. They had three children.

In the long run, Anne Innis Dagg has long since settled in Waterloo, nearby to where she and her husband raised their family and where she has recently established the Junior Giraffe Club.

She has written 35 books and 60 scientific papers. Much of her career was also involved in feminism, lobbying post-secondary educational institutions on their very restrictive policies with regard to hiring women as professors and educators.

Rebecca Bordonali saw the documentary made about Anne Dagg in 2018, called the “Woman Who Loves Giraffes” and it reflected Rebecca’s own love for them.

She told the Citizen in a telephone interview, “My involvement started with this when I saw the documentary and then I wrote to her and then I got to meet her and was invited to belong to the Junior Giraffe Club. I introduced my dad to come and he became involved in it too.”

Both the twin sisters belong to the Junior Giraffe Club. Rebecca was its first member.

It was Anne Innis Dagg’s daughter, Mary Dagg, to whom the Citizen spoke about her famous mother and the work they are continuing to do in support of giraffe conservation and their involvement with young people in East Africa to keep them aware and connected to the giraffe.

She told the Citizen, “Spotty [built and standing in Waterloo and later renamed Gayle] was the original giraffe. We sold names on spots and covered the giraffe. This was used as fundraiser originally, raising $10,450 to train dog sniffers, which are dogs used to sniff giraffe meat from poachers at harbours. Someone goes through the baggage but dogs go through the bags.”

So, Marlyn is the second fundraising giraffe, this time to educate children with trips and clubs about the endangered animals, sure that education equals conservation.

“We want to use some of the money to plant trees as well,” said Ms. Dagg. “I was working doing finance work at law firms when my mother’s movie came out and it was doing a lot of festivals. People came back, saying, ‘How do we help giraffes?’ We set up the foundation and I left my work to do this full time.

“As soon as we set up the Junior Giraffe Club, Rebecca contacted us, saying ‘I love giraffes.’ And she is the one who decided to build this giraffe.”

In response to why Rebecca thinks this would be a good idea, she said, “We think it is something for people to get excited about and be able to get involved with, something in Alton. I’m very passionate about the conservation and especially giraffes which are in decline and I want to help the numbers get better.”

She commented on what they are doing in raising money, “We’re hoping with this idea of education to show them it’s important for them to be sure to care for the animals near them. If they see the giraffes themselves, they may feel closer to the idea of how important they are.”

This writer was told that the Brodonalis’ neighbours have been supportive and many have approached with their donations and introduced other people to donate.

Currently, the twins are in grade 12 at Mayfield Secondary School, both in the music program; Rebecca plays the flute and Rachel plays clarinet.

Rebecca plans to go university and study sciences; right now, she is doing earth and space, biology, chemistry and physics.

“I really like physics,” said she. “It’s really cool to learn how things work and why. You use things everyday but you don’t know why they work, so, it’s interesting to learn how they work.

“Right now, where we are with the giraffe, we’re going to Alton Public School. We’re involved talking to them about conservation.”

Seriously, she remarked, “This is very important because I love animals, preferring them over people, so far as I’ve grown. I just keep seeing the world becoming more urbanized, it’s important to understand how important the wilderness is.

“It’s important to maintain the biodiversity so that the earth can stay healthy.”

The documentary about Dr. Mary Innis Dagg, “The woman who loves Giraffes,” a documentary well worth seeing is available on Apple TV and Amazon Prime for a small fee.

Dr. Innis Dagg was awarded the Order of Canada for her work.

Quite simply, Dr. Mary Innis Dagg is a Canadian hero.

To read more about their foundation, go to

To donate to the fund Marlyn Giraffe is supporting, the site is: and select the Classroom Africa Program.

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