Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Gustave Eiffel, when conceiving the Eiffel Tower, surely must have been influenced by the graceful form of the very first live giraffe, Zarafa, ever to set foot in France. 

Zarafa, a gift to Charles X from the Pacha of Egypte, was shipped to the port of Marseilles, then led by foot to Paris in 1827, accompanied by the director of the Jardin des Plantes, three cows (from which the young giraffe was given milk) and an escort cavalry of gendarmes. 

All of Paris thronged to the ménagerie of the Jardins des Plantes to see the exotic creature which inspired graphic and literary artists of the time.  Zarafa's coming was a highly exceptional event, only two other hapless giraffes had ever been displaced to Europe before.

Now a museum mascot
After Zarafa's death in 1845 the famous giraffe was stuffed, mounted and put on display at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle in the Atlantic coastal city of  La Rochelle.

Photo of Zarafa at the Muséum d'histoire naturelle, La Rochelle, published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Soon to be a film 
A feature-length animated film based on a story about Zarafa's friendship with a little boy from Sudan who promises to bring the animal back to the savanna, is scheduled to be released February 8, 2012. For the film trailer of Zarafa by Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie, click here.

une girafe:  a giraffe
une ménagerie:  a collection of wild animals 
un gendarme:  an armed French national police officer
naturalisation:  in zoology, process of stuffing and mounting animal skins by a taxidermist

©2012 P.B. Lecron

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