Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The male of the species

Went to the Jardin des Plantes to see the animals in the menagerie. I'm not terribly keen on creatures in captivity but where else can you see bored orang-utans pick their noses, spotted panthers sleek hypnotically back and forth and vultures struggling to work up enough momentum to fly without slamming into the cage. Still, the tortoises look happy and probably couldn't mark the boundaries of their territory in under a week. There was an added bonus this visit: the sloth, who normally only comes down from his branch once a week to have a poo - an event we have hitherto missed - had decided to pace the length of his arborial network upside down at some considerable speed for a lazy, good-for-nothing layabout.

There was a bit of a racket going on as we bought our tickets. A series of loud, long grunts at regular intervals. The Frenchman looked slightly puzzled but La Fille and I are veterans of the menagerie. "The giant tortoise is at it again," I said. Of course we then had to indulge in a spot of nature voyeurism. We found the very giantest of the Giant Sechelles Tortoises trying to mount the smallest. Sideways on. Given that their species dates from prehistoric times you'd have thought they might have developed some kind of tortoise GPS system to recognise back from front from side. Apparently not. Maybe this is why they are permanently threatened with extinction and it has nothing to do with horrid humans wanting to turn them into soup. The female tortoise (I am assuming it is female but homosexual tortoises? Why not.) looked bored and continued munching the grass. "Doesn't that bloody well say it all about the male of the species," I thought.

We went off to see the iguana. We had gone ten paces when the Seychelle shagger started again. This time the right way. It was quite a performance as he was at least three times the size - and presumably weight - of the poor creature he had in his scaly clutches and was literally pummeling into the ground. Nor did he seem at all bothered by being gawped at by crowd of strange animals all pointing and giggling and jostling for a closer look. The female (presumed) carried on munching at the grass. She looked bored, but that might have been her permanent expression. Afterwards as the male slunk off with a clunking of shells, the Frenchman joked: "Should I offer him a cigarette?" Nobody laughed.

As I say, several million years of evolution and plus ça change.

4 comments:

Jaywalker said...

Oh my god, I always thought Kiki (the largest/oldest) was a girl! One of the foundations of my universe has just crumbled.
I always loved the pictures of them taking the tortoises from summer to winter quarters with a CRANE.
Have you ever seen those crocodiles move? I am convinced they are stuffed.
My tortoises never get up to such sauciness. Except with shoes.

parisgirl said...

Jaywalker, I can say with some certainty that the big one is a boy. Unless there was a bigger one somewhere else in the garden!
Funny you should mention the crocodiles. I had to do my nosy-parker-butting-into-other-people's-conversations to tell two visitors they were not stuffed or plastic. They weren't convinced: one was lying there with its mouth open and looked posed. The third one (in the second enclosure) was actually swimming!

Jaywalker said...

I have been obsessively researching now. Because obviously, better than working and all that and oh my god! You're right! Kiki IS male!
There is a great picture of Kiki here:
http://www.leszoosdanslemonde.com/html/zoo_monde/europe/zoo_france/paris/paris_menagerie/paris_menagerie.htm
Kiki, I often felt, was the only creature who understood me in Paris so you can appreciate my desarroi on finding out that he was probably just thinking about shagging during all my melancholy monologues to him.

parisgirl said...

Thank you. What a fabulous site.
I think it depends whether you were unloading your woes on Kiki during the winter or summer. Every time we've been when the tortoises are outside he's been at it. And at his age!