Interview with Gamletovich Leningradov (Samson for friends)



What is your name, and where are you from?

My full name is Samson Gamletovich Leningradov – Samson for friends. I’m the only animal at our zoo who has both a patronymic and a surname. I was born in 1993, in St. Petersburg, in the second oldest Russian zoo (last year it celebrated its 150th anniversary). I received my name in honour of a famous fountain ‘Sampson’ situated in a St. Petersburg suburb called Peterhof. My father’s name was Hamlet, my mum’s name was Luga after a local river. But I consider myself a Muscovite, as I came here as a baby.

Why is it so important for you?

I have to spend the whole winter indoors. To be honest with you, I can survive low temperatures. My compatriots, African animals like cheetahs and gnu antelopes, enjoy the snow and walk outdoors in the winter months. But we giraffes are too tall: it is pretty risky to slip and fall. When you crash down from such a height, you can be seriously injured. That’s why our humans keep us safe and only let us out when all the snow and ice have gone away.

Actually, it is okay in my winter house, too. I am privileged to occupy the memorial building – the oldest house in the zoo now. My nearest neighbours are a tapir and a pair of skunks, and we share our house with the Zoo history museum, which is on the upper floor. Much better than being alone.

Do you remember your early childhood?

Not really. My mum told me she gave birth to me standing up, and I dropped to the ground like we all do. I was about 1.8 meters high, the normal size for babies of my species. I already had little horns or, better to say, little bumps.

Selection_161Do you feel the approach of spring?

Oh, yes, I am looking forward for it and I’m happy that there is already a hint of spring in the air.

Why then you are waiting so impatiently for spring to come?

We – giraffes – like having lots of room to ourselves. In the wild, giraffes live in the savannah which is a huge open space. There you can see things that are a great distance away – I can make out objects a kilometre away!

From my enclosure I can see an Eagle Rock with sea eagles, Californian condors and other birds of prey perched on it. During winter I could only hear their voices (my hearing is extremely good by the way!). But I can’t wait to communicate with them in person, to ask how they spent the winter, and how are they preparing to the mating season. As far as I know, keepers are supposed to bring twigs for the birds to starts building nests.

Behind the Rock there’s the zoo’s Bird Lake with all its web-footed inhabitants – noisy ducks, geese and swans. Exotic flamingos will show up, they are also keen to leave from their winter place. Giraffes have colour vision, so I can distinguish most colours of rainbow just like you can.

My next-door neighbours are cheetahs. When guided tours go by, the guides often mention us both as record breakers, since the giraffes are the tallest animals and cheetahs – the fastest runners. We and the cheetahs are good friends. Sometimes they pretend to be hunting my other neighbour – Marquise the cat from my house – but she is too smart to let them approach her.

How do you drink?

In the wild, giraffes get most of their water from juicy leaves in the wet season, and in the dry season they need to drink at least every three days. To drink from a river or a lake we need to spread our forelegs very wide to reach water. In the zoo it is thought out pretty well – my drinking bowl is fixed at about 1 meter above the ground, so it’s easier to drink.

I heard that giraffes live in small groups is that true?

Yes, but all attempts to find a life mate for me have failed. But I don’t feel alone: My visitors are my herd. I am always happy to bend down, to let them see my wonderful horns, my long (about 50 cm) blackish tongue, my charming huge eyes with long eyelashes.

Do visitors feed you?

Er, yes, but it is no good. Here at the zoo I receive enough healthy and balanced food, lots of fruit and vegetables and, of course, my favourite willow twigs with tender leaves. But, of course, being a gentleman, I just cannot insult my guests and politely take what visitors give me. It’s great if they bring a carrot or a piece of apple. Some strange people treat me with chips or bread – it is pretty harmful for giraffes and other animals. Better come to see me and talk to me.

Selection_162Zoo opening and closing times in winter (Dec – March)

10 am to 5 pm

(ticket office closes at 4 pm)

Cost: adults Mon-Fri 400 roubles, on weekends 500 roubles

Children (0 to 17) – free admission

Educational programs:

Besides traditional
guided tours and lectures:

Interactive programs that
include theater performances, quests, animal shows. Different variations, topics and difficulty of tasks, depending of age and individual choice.

5+ and older – up to teens and even adults: “Art-Zebra” studios – children’s creative workshops (drawing & painting, sculpture (modeling?), animalistic photography)

After the New year – follow us on the zoo site. New programs are under preparation:

For conservation programs and other events – more detailed information will be available on the site and FB page of Moscow Zoo.

Summer camps for kids 7 – 13 (4 14-days long programs – parents bring children every day at 9 and pick them up at 6)

Phone: 8 (499) 255 57-63 for more information on special programmes for children and others.