Franklin Park Zoo to Welcome New Poitou Donkeys, Samuel and Balthazar

July 8, 2009 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

A poitou donkey
A poitou donkey

With Bastille Day around the corner, Franklin Park Zoo will celebrate the French National Day two days early by welcoming the Zoo’s newest celebrity residents: “Samuel” and “Balthazar,” two rare breed Poitou donkeys.

The President and CEO of Zoo New England, John Linehan, along with special guest, the Consul General of France in Boston, François Gauthier, will welcome Samuel and Balthazar at the Zoo on Sunday, July 12 at 1:30 p.m. during a special ceremony. Visitors of all ages are welcome to join the celebration.

With its long, dark coat of hair, the Poitou donkey, known as the Baudet du Poitou in French, is an extremely rare breed of donkey and the oldest breed of donkeys in France.

The donkey, Samuel, is named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain, underlining the connections between New England and France, and particularly between Vermont and Poitou. This year marks the Quadricentennial of Champlain’s visit to the lake that now bears his name and, fittingly, the donkeys are connected to the famous explorer in several ways: not only have they been raised on a farm in Vermont, but their rare breed also finds its origin in the “Poitou-Charentes” region, where Champlain was born in the late sixteenth century.

Balthazar bears the name of a donkey, known to generations of French children as the hero of the 1966 movie “Au hasard Balthazar,” who has become a beloved character for old and young generations in France.

With help from the Consulate General of France in Boston, this acquisition has been made possible by the generous support of the Florence Gould Foundation, thus enabling Franklin Park Zoo visitors to enjoy these two remarkable animals for years to come.

And if you can’t make it on Sunday, to honor the Zoo’s new French residents Franklin Park Zoo will offer free admission to anyone who presents an item featuring the French flag and says “Vive La France!” at the Zoo admission booth on Bastille Day, Tuesday, July 14.

 

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