Street in France renamed after famous Nancy chimpanzee, Jojo

Jojo died in 2012 but a plaque has been installed in his memory, and as a marker of changing attitudes towards animal welfare

A photo of an adult chimpanzee face
Chimpanzees typically only live around 40 years, but Jojo made it two decades longer (photo for illustration only)
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A street in France has been named after one of the country’s most famous chimpanzees, as part of a wider campaign to show that ‘animals are not there for fun’.

Jojo the chimpanzee was one of the oldest in Europe before his death in 2012 at the age of 60. He was born in 1951. He now has a street named after him – Allée Jojo in Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Grand Est.

A blue plaque on a wall down the street shows the street name, and says: “Emblematic animal of the city of Nancy, 1951-2012.”

The plaque and street’s new name was unveiled this week by Nancy’s mayor, Mathieu Klein. The plaque is located next to the cage that the chimpanzee occupied in the city’s Parc de la Pépinière.

The chimpanzee was well-known in the city, and even used to smoke cigarettes that passers-by would throw to him.

The mayor said: “One of my first memories of Nancy, before I moved to live here, is of Jojo. When he died, people came to the cage and cried.”

Jojo was gifted to the city by a zoo in central Africa, in 1963, at the age of 12. He died almost 50 years later, and became one of the oldest chimpanzees in Europe. They typically live for only 40 years.

His second companion, Judith, was not so lucky. She died after becoming poisoned by eating yew branches thrown by visitors.

Michel Renaudin, who cared for Jojo for 20 years, said that he came to the new street naming ceremony with photos of the animal. He said: “His character was all or nothing. But when I brought him fries to eat, he used to hug me.”

The children of Nancy often used to scream with laughter when Jojo would pour saliva onto passers-by.

Daniel Broyard, who has run the fairground near the cage for 53 years, said: “He was a legend. Some people came every day to see him. And his facial expressions! And when you arrived, he would recognise you.”

Animal welfare attitudes

However, the plaque has not only been installed in memory of Jojo, but also to acknowledge the changing attitudes toward animals.

Dahman Richter, municipal councillor for the rights and wellbeing of animals, said that the way Jojo was treated was “shameful”. It was his idea to install the plaque and rename the street.

He said: “This day symbolises a page that is turning, and will remain turned. By the sole strength of his memory, he has made us better and more attentive to these animals’ lives.”

The mayor said: “It’s good to remember that these animals are not here for our amusement.”

Over the past few years, the city of Nancy has gradually closed its zoo, in favour of an educational farm. The last macaque monkeys went to live in a suitable centre in Belgium, in 2020.

New domestic and local species are set to arrive at the farm in the next few months, including the red Ardennes turkey.

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