When Ptolemy Philadelphos, ruler of ancient Egypt, had his army parade through Alexandria, what most impressed onlookers were not his 80,000 soldiers but his nearly 100 elephants — which, at the time, had the same tactical advantages as modern tanks. According to Belozerskaya, exotic animals have always fascinated, whether as entertainment for the masses (the unfortunate beasts in Rome’s Colosseum) or royalty (a lion who roamed the palace of Hungary’s King Rudolf II). The phenomenon continues with our ongoing love affair with Chinese pandas. Rich in detail and compassion, The Medici Giraffe is a marvelous look at the ultimate in pet projects.