French soothes a savage beast named Boris

31st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

OTTAWA, May 30, 2007 (AFP) - Everyone likes the sound of French it seems, and a zoo in western Canada has asked visitors to speak French to its Siberian tiger.

OTTAWA, May 30, 2007 (AFP) - Everyone likes the sound of French it seems, and a zoo in western Canada has asked visitors to speak French to its Siberian tiger.

"We hope people will come to the zoo and speak French to him to keep him company," said Jan Archbold, a spokeswoman for the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

She said the cat "seems to enjoy hearing French" -- despite being a Siberian tiger named Boris.

"When our zoo keepers tried to speak to him in English, he obviously didn't understand what they were trying to tell him, so he remained indifferent," Archbold explained.

Boris arrived at the zoo in May 2006, but did not respond until recently, when the zoo's sole French-speaking staffer spoke to him in French.

A simple "bonjour" and Boris came right over.
 
"He had been raised by francophones, so the commands that he understood were in French," she said.

Boris, who will be eight years old in August, was raised in captivity in francophone Quebec province, and so does not understand English commands.

About 200,000 out of 2.9 million Albertans speak French, according to the latest 2001 census. For 58,000 of them, French is their first language.

Boris came to the Edmonton Valley Zoo from the Granby Zoo in Quebec, as part of the Species Survival Plan, a breeding program to help Siberian tigers thrive in captivity.

There are 116 Siberian tigers in the North American program.

Due to habitat loss and poaching, only 450 Siberian tigers remain in the wild worldwide.

Archbold said the zoo eventually hopes to teach Boris English so that he responds to the commands of English-speaking zookeepers and veterinarians too, becoming "bilingual."

Meantime, the zoo hopes people taking the time to converse with Boris will also learn about the plight of wild Siberian tigers, she said.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Offbeat

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