Great Britain

Revealed after 30 years: why a dead giraffe's final journey was on the A19

Following on our stories of the dead whale's carcass that toured the North-East in the 1950s and 1970s, David Walsh takes us back to 1989, when he was chair of the planning, development, transport and waste disposal committee of Cleveland County Council.

But the day-to-day business of councils in the region had ground to a halt because of a fortnight-long national strike called by the Nalgo union of council workers.

By agreement between management and union officials, though, crucial services were kept ticking over. For instance, the incinerator at Portrack was burning a reduced amount of waste to ensure that health and safety was maintained.

Then the council received an unusual telephone call from Tyneside.

A giraffe had suddenly died while appearing with a travelling circus. This had left Tyneside council officials with an extremely large carcass on their hands which they desperately needed to get rid of before it became as pongy as Jonas the Dead Whale.

“Dead giraffes were not seen as suitable for landfill,” says David, “and Cleveland had the only incinerator in the North-East that had the capacity to handle such big one-off jobs.

“So with a council engineer, I sat down with the Nalgo officials and, after some discussion, a permit was issued for the late giraffe to make its final journey.

“Early morning drivers on the southbound lanes of the A19 had the bizarre experience of overtaking a long and slow moving low-loader, with a police escort, which carried a very deceased giraffe with its legs trussed in the air, and its neck and head hanging down at the back of the wagon.”

The Portrack incinerator then did its job, but because of the delicacies of the strike, the story of the dead giraffe has never been told until now.

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