Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Meet Zarafa, the giraffe that inspired a crazy hairdo

One giraffe, thousands of miles and some seriously big hair.
Name: Zarafa
Species: Giraffa camelopardalis
Dates: 1824-1845
Claim to fame: First giraffe in France

When Zarafa died in 1845, her extraordinary journey came to an end. Or did it? Zarafa is famous for her grueling trek from what is now southern Sudan to Paris, along the way becoming the first giraffe to set foot on French soil. As the crow flies, this is a distance of almost 5000 km. But Zarafa’s itinerary was far from straight-forward, being carried on the back of a camel, sailing down the Nile to Alexandria, then across the Mediterranean in a larger vessel, before walking from Marseilles to Paris.

As Zarafa slowly made her way to the French capital, there was great excitement on the streets. In Lyons, it is said that some 30,000 people came to see her, almost one-third of the city’s population at the time. She seemed to thrive on the work-out. “She gained weight and much more strength from the exercise: her muscles were more defined, her coat smoother and glossier,” reported Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, the eminent naturalist who accompanied this novelty northwards

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