By M. Boyde
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In 1873 Jamrach’s agents were in Singapore and had filled the yard of the Hotel de la Paix with their purchases which included four tapirs, two orang-utans, a panther, an elephant, a bear and various large birds. These formed an informal zoo and could be viewed by appointment. He had two local hunters – the Fernandez brothers – scouring the Malaysian Peninsula for more animals and was planning a shipment of eight each of rhinoceros, tapirs, tigers, panthers as well as numerous birds. S. Agra went down off Galle (also in 1873) when only an elephant and some cobras survived.
On a lighter note, the negrophilia in Paris at the time (Millar 45) renders Atir a sexualised and highly desirable body. In the play he is seduced by Lady Clothilde Grandeville de Largemont, wife of the prefect of Marseilles, who finds him in the stable where he sleeps with Sogo Jan. In the stage directions she is ‘thrilled to be making love under the eyes of the giraffe’ (Burns 267), as though the very gaze of the giraffe contributes to Atir’s desirability. In the narrative of the play, Sogo Jan is also exoticised and eroticised.
For Pick: ‘to deny the agency of creaturely suffering does not only deflect a difficult reality, but compromises thought’ (11). While Ledgard represents this ‘agency of creaturely 22 Wendy Woodward suffering’ in the depiction of the final traumatic scene, the individual, embodied agency of giraffes as knowing and experiencing subjects features strongly and distressingly. Paradoxically, Jiri, the sharpshooter, and Amina, who are ethically responsive to the giraffes, are forced into the position of caring for the animals while killing them.
Captured: The Animal within Culture by M. Boyde