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Zoo History

by Aryan Marxaney

The zoo is currently used as a way to describe a holding place for exotic animals. Although this word may seem a normal part of our apt vocabulary, 200 years, collections of exotic species were referred to as menageries.These zoos were mainly private collections, kept only by the wealthy. When London Zoo started in Regent's Park, we have the advent of a Zoological Garden, which was open to the public. However, as you may have noticed, we are moving away from the use of the word zoo and replacing it for titles such as biopark (such as in the Valencia Bioparc) or Safari Park (such as San Diego Safari Park).

Around 2500 B.C. in Ancient Egypt, we have record of animals being kept in captivity. Many types of media at the Saqqara cemetry, near Memphis in Egypt, show that the Egyptians kept animal such as antelopes, baboons, hyenas, cheetahs, cranes storks and falcons in captivity.Thutmose III kept wild animals at the temple of Karnak, which is in Luxor, Egypt. Rameses II kept giraffes and had a pet lion.

Earlier than 2000 B.C.E, we have record of lions being kept in Mesopotamia. In walls of Assyrian palaces, we have many different images of animals. Sennacherib, who is thought to be the creator of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and was King of Assyria for a certain time period, also ordered for the construction of a wetlands environment to house plants and animals from a marsh environment.

In Ancient China, walled parks for animasl were constructed in the Zhou Dynasty. In the Han Dynasty, we had many private menageries, including one containing elephants and rhinoceroses.

In Ancient Greece, Aristotle had his own menagerie and wrote the earliest known zoological encyclopedia.

Unlike the above, the Romans had a completely different use for animals, which lead to extinctions such as the Nubian Hippopotamus and the Mesopotamian Lion. Pompey, as an example, financed a single show with 20 elephants and between 500 and 600 lions, all who were killed in the show. In the Colosseum, under the stage, there is a complex system of lifts and pulleys to get the animals from their cages up to the stage. The fact that 500-600 lions were used just shows us how many must have died in the transport.

There weren't many zoos during the Dark Ages and Medieval Times with the exception of collections at Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul (in Constantinople). In China, we have parks and gardens with animal in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. The Emperor Charlemagne in Western Europe maintained menageries at several of his private estates including elephants, lions, bears, and camels. Henry I in England enlarged an animal collection that had already been started by his father, William the Conqueror, which contained animals like lions, lynx and camels.

In the 13th Century, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was the first person to establish a major new zoo in Europe in Palermo, Italy. It included elephants, a griraffe, leopards, camels, and monkeys. Frederick II wrote several books on birds and falconry and opened three more of these zoos in Italy. He also helped other city leaders to expand their collection by sending animals to them. Frederick II sent three leopards to his brother-in-law in England, Henry III who added them to the Tower of London Menagerie. By the late 16th century, almost all kings and princes in Europe had a private menagerie. One exception is the Dutch, who, instead, opened these menageries to the public. One of the most stylish menageries in Europe was that of Loius XIV in Versailles. Sadly, during the French Revolution, many of these animals were killed and the survivors were moved to the Jardin des Plantes, Paris. At the same time, people could see these exotic animals in circuses which travelled around Europe with exotic animals including elephants.

Throughout the 18th and 19th century, zoos became public places, sparking interest within the public for natural history and zoology. In the 19th century there were two 'world leaders' in the field of zoos which were the Jardin des Plantes and the London Zoo.

After the Jardin des Plantes and the London Zoo, the next development was in the design concept of zoos lead by Carl Hagenbeck, a German animal dealer and trainer. The Barnum and Bailey's Circus were one of his customers. The vision that Carl Hagenbeck is most credited for is the fact that he wanted to build a zoo without bars. He first established a series of travelling displays which he referred to as 'panoramas' but later started to develop a permanent location for his zoo with Urs Eggenschwyler, with concrete rocks and gorges, all based on naturalistic environments. They also used moats and ditches to separate the animals from humans.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the United States opened the Philadelphia Zoo in 1874 and the Cincinnati Zoo in 1875.The Bronx Zoo then opened in 1899. The US was quick to follow Hagenbeck's lead as they developed naturalistic enclosures.

The next age in zoo history began around the 1920's where we emphasized the hygeine era or disinfectant era. Cages were now designed for ease of cleaning, not animal pleasure. Here we have the use of tiled walls, concrete floors, and heavy, steel doors. Berthold Lubetkin developed what may be seen as the best-known example of an enclosure from this period - the Penguin Pool at London Zoo. It was never a successful building for the penguins, so, in 2004 they were moved to a naturalistic pool and eventually had a $2 million pool completed in 2011.

However, in the 1970's, the animal rights groups called for change. As people started questioning the existence of zoos, the first safari park opened in the UK in 1966 at Longleat in Wiltshire. Woburn followed in 1970. The safari park concept was initially thought of by Jimmy Chipperfield (English circus director). Australia also saw this potential as they opened the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 1977 and Werribee Open Range Zoo offering an African zoo experience. In the 1970's, we also see development in the US with the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. This is where we see the start of landscape immersion, where visitors walk through a rainforest house, instead of just looking into a replica.

Although this isn't all of zoo history, it just gets more exciting as we continue through this dense history of zoos.


zoo animals: behaviour, management and welfare

by geoff hosey, vicky melfi and sheila pankhurst

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