'Giraffomania' celebrating 180 years since the arrival of the first giraffes at ZSL London Zoo

by Ann Sylph on

24 May 2016 is the 180th anniversary of the first giraffes to arrive at ZSL London Zoo. Throughout May there will be a special 'Giraffomania' display in ZSL Library, so do call in to view the exhibit.

An illustruation of the first giraffes with the Arabs who brought them over to this country
The giraffes with the Arabs who brought them over to this country. Zoological Gardens. Regent's Park. Lithographic print in `Views of the Zoo’, G. Scharf del et lithog. Printed by C. Hullmandel, 1836.

The 'Daily Occurrences'  for 1836 records the arrival of the four giraffes on 24 May 1836 They were the first ever seen in this country apart from a young female giraffe presented to George IV and which lived briefly at Windsor.

The animals were illustrated by George Scharf along with their Arab attendants, these were Cabas, Omar and Abdalah - the fourth figure is M. Thibaut, a French trader in the Sudan; the names of the male giraffes are Mabrouck, Selim and Guib-Allah. The female was called Zaida.

The giraffes were temporarily kept in the Elephant House and were moved to the Giraffe House on 16 June 1837, it is still used to house giraffes today. It is the earliest building at ZSL London Zoo which is still being used for it’s original purpose. It was designed by Decimus Burton (1800-1881) in the form of a 'Tuscan barn'.

A painting of a giraffe with young and the `giraffe house cat'
Giraffe and young an original watercolour by Joseph Wolf , 1852.

This painting probably illustrates one of the seventeen fawns born at ZSL London Zoo between 1839 and 1867. The first captive bred giraffe was born in 1839. Also illustrated is a 'Giraffe House cat'. The building was used for other animals including an orangutan and the first black rhinoceros at ZSL London Zoo.

If you are a ZSL Fellow or Member please do also visit the ZSL Library to see 'Giraffomania'. Others are also welcome but please do bring photographic ID and proof of address when you visit, see the ZSL Library Collection for details. ZSL Fellows may borrow post-1940 books from the ZSL Library.

'Giraffomania' will include some of the earlist published images of giraffe.

ZSL Library is open weekdays 9.30am to 5.30pm but is closed on bank holidays.

Explore and discover our collections online using our catalogue http://library.zsl.org

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