Giant Tortoise of Paris

The Giant Tortoise Who Attracted All of Paris

The journey of this giant turtle began far away from Paris with its discovery in 1907 in Concarneau, Brittany.  It must have been a bit lost, as this species usually comes from the West Indies. Weighing in at 350 kilos and 1.90 meters in length, and was the only one of its kind in Europe, so of course the media coverage is quick.

The turtle is bought for the modest sum of 25 francs by a fishmonger, who immediately embarks in a car bound for Paris. The animal is then taken directly to the Les Halles markets in central Paris to be put on display. A true attraction, people came from everywhere to come to admire the phenomenal animal. The colorful and large shell of the turtle attracted all eyes. Some days, about five thousand people come to admire this tortoise. The craze that followed required a police force and agents to carry the animal and protect it from the violence of the crowd.

Giant Tortoise of Paris Kiki

An uncommon natural sight, naturalists we summoned from all over to see the animal. After the display of the animal, it was time for the animal to be sold to the highest bidder. The Jardin des Plantes Museum is interested but had very little money. The establishment faced competition from merchants, businessmen and even circus shows. The turtle is finally purchased for 400 francs to the owner of the store “Aux Quatre Saisons”, located rue de la Boetie. For the record, eight men are needed to load the beast into the car. This new life is not idyllic for the turtle since it died shortly thereafter. A taxidermist preserves the turtle and, before finishing the ceiling of the famous Chartier restaurant, uses it as a decorative element. What was once a natural phenomenon, becomes an electric chandelier, in view of the many customers.

A few years later, another giant turtle landed in the capital and had a much better life. Arrived in 1923, the giant tortoise Kiki from the Seychelles is housed at the Museum of Natural History. Enjoying total protection this time around, Kiki died in 2009, at the venerable age of 146 years!

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