September 01, 2014

Moscow's Zoo

Moscow's Zoo

In the Moscow Zoo, there is a giraffe named Samson who writes a column for Novaya Gazeta. Well, that’s not exactly right, but that is how the rumor goes. The truth, which is slightly more banal, is that he was sponsored by the Russian newspaper for many years until funding inevitably ran out.

Watching him move his long legs languidly on a gloriously sunny day in June, I can see why Samson Leningradovich (named as such since he hails from St. Petersburg) was the obvious choice for adoption. He’s an uncannily friendly, charismatic giraffe who frequently bows through the gap in his pen to let visitors pet his spotted head, daintily baring his teeth to munch on the apples and carrots that people eagerly feed him. His chipper demeanor, however, belies a tragic, doomed love life.

“We kept trying to get a mate for him, but it never worked out,” Petya,* one of the zookeepers who showed me around, said, shaking his head sadly, “One of them broke her legs and had to be put down, and the other died of acute anaphylaxis after vaccination against anthrax.”

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