Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Celebration of Jill & Megan

My friend Jill has a new baby, Megan. When I saw these photos on SFGate.com, I thought of them.

"Baby's first bath: Zarafa licks clean her new calf born only minutes earlier at Safari West wildlife preserve in Santa Rosa."

Zarafa, by the way, was the name given to a giraffe calf in the 18th century who was given to the king of France by a middle eastern prince named Muhammed Ali.

She was carried out of Africa on the back of a camel and then down the Nile in a barge that had a hole in the deck for her neck and head. Then she went by sailing ship to France. When she got to Marseille, she was too tall to ride in a cart, and so she walked to Paris. An incredible convoy was arranged, with Zarafa following a herd of cows. When it rained, she wore a raincoat that had been made just for her. In those days most people had never even seen a drawing of a giraffe. The entire trip through France, people came and lined the roads to watch the wonder of her. Individuals would return day after day, so long as they could walk the distance to see her. And, because Zarafa had been taken when she was first born, she was very friendly to people.

I read a book* about her a few years ago, and there were very old people still alive who had been told by their great-grandparents, who had been told by their great-grandparents, who had been children at the time, about the magic journey of Zarafa.

When the journey was over, Zarafa's handler, a Nubian slave named Atir, stayed with her. Slavery was not legal in France, so Atir became a free man.

* Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris, by Michael Ailin.

4 comments:

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I love giraffes. :)

Bridget Magnus said...

I also like the leopard picture. The cub is clearly thinking "Aw mommyyyyyyy!"

Betty said...

What an interesting story. I like giraffes.

Anna said...

What a fascinating story. They are such pretty creatures. It reminded me of Joanna Lumley's marvellous programme about the Rothschild giraffe in Kenya - you might like to see a little of it.