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People connected to British Zoos

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  • Gerald Malcolm Durrell, OBE (1925 - 1995)
    naturalist, author, conservationist, and zoo-keeper. The younger brother of the writer Lawrence Durrell, he showed an interest in zoology from an early age, beginning a life long occupation of collecti...
  • Sir Stamford Raffles (1781 - 1826)
    Founder of Singapore* See Wikipedia... ; * Burke, Bernard, Sir. A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Great Britain & Ireland 6th ed . London : Harrison 1879. Vol....
  • Henry III, king of England (1207 - 1272)
    a short summary from Wikipedia:Henry IIIReign: 19 October 1216 – 16 November 1272Coronation: 28 October 1216, Gloucester17 May 1220, Westminster AbbeyPredecessor: JohnSuccessor: Edward IRegent William ...
  • John I "Lackland", King of England (1166 - 1216)
    alternate birth location detailsKings Manor House, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Englandseveral sources also give his birth year as 1167other possible death date ; 19 October 1216===============================...
  • Henry I "Beauclerc", King of England (1068 - 1135)
    "Beauclerc because of his study habits (Beauclerc meaning well-learnt, scholarly, erudite) Il est aussi connu sous le nom de Henri Ier de Normandie, roi d'Angleterre et Henri Ier, roi d' Angleterre dit...

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A zoo (short for zoological park or zoological garden, and also called a menagerie) is a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also be bred.

The term zoological garden refers to zoology, the study of animals, a term deriving from the Greek zōon "animal" and lógos "study". The abbreviation "zoo" was first used of the London Zoological Gardens, which opened for scientific study in 1828 and to the public in 1857. The number of major animal collections open to the public around the world now exceeds 1,000, around 80 percent of them in cities.

A menagerie is a form of keeping common and exotic animals in captivity. It preceded the modern zoological garden. The term was first used in seventeenth century France in reference to the management of household or domestic stock. It later was used in reference to aristocratic or royal animal collections. The French-language "Methodical Encyclopaedia" of 1782 defines a menagerie as an "establishment of luxury and curiosity." Later the term referred also to travelling animal collections that exhibited wild animals at fairs across Europe and the Americas.

Travelling Menageries were animal collections run by showmen who met people's craving for sensation. These animal shows ranged in size but the largest was George Wombwell's. The earliest record of a fatality at one such travelling menagerie was the death of Hannah Twynnoy in 1703 who was killed by a tiger in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

The British public have been visiting zoos since Elizabethan times.

Changes in public attitude has meant that, zoos have evolved from places simply of spectacle and scientific research to establishments which focus more on conservation and animal welfare.


During the Middle Ages

... several sovereigns across Europe kept menageries at their royal courts. Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th century had three menageries, at Aachen, Nijmegen and Ingelheim, located in present-day Netherlands and Germany. These housed the first elephants seen in Europe since the Roman Empire, along with monkeys, lions, bears, camels, falcons, and many exotic birds. Charlemagne received exotic animals for his collection as gifts from rulers of Africa and Asia.

In 797, the caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid

... presented Charlemagne with an Asian elephant named Abul-Abbas. The pachyderm arrived on July 1, 802 to the Emperor's residence in Aachen. He died in June 810.

In the 11th Century

... William the Conqueror established a royal menagerie at Woodstock Manor near Oxford, including lions and camels, seen as symbols of power.

Around the year 1100

... Henry I enclosed Woodstock and enlarged the collection. At the beginning of the 12th century he is known to have kept a collection of animals at his palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, reportedly including lions, leopards, lynxes, camels, owls and a porcupine.


The most prominent animal collection in medieval England was the Tower Menagerie in London. It was established by King John, who reigned in England from 1199–1216, and is known to have held lions and bears.

1235 - 1254

... Henry III received a wedding gift of three leopards from Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. The most spectacular Tower Menagerie arrivals in the early years were a white bear and an elephant, gifts from the kings of Norway and France in 1251 and in 1254 respectively.

In 1264

... the Tower Menagerie animals were moved to the Bulwark, which was renamed the Lion Tower, near the main western entrance of the Tower. This building was made up of rows of cages with arched entrances, enclosed behind grilles. They were set in two storeys, and it seems that the animals used the upper cages during the day and were moved to the lower storey at night.

In the 16th Century

... the public was first allowed to view the Royal Menagerie by Queen Elizabeth I. During the 18th century, the price of admission was three half-pence, or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions.

This tradition of opening the Tower Menagerie to the public was kept by successive monarchs who received exotic animals as gifts from foreign rulers.

In 1793

... showman Gilbert Pidcock opened his own animal collection at the Exeter Exchange on the Strand in central London.

Pidcock promoted his collection with eye-catching newspaper adverts, some assuring the public that his wild animals were "so well secured, that the most timorous may approach them in safety."

At the end of the 18th century animals recorded at the Royal Menagerie included lions, tigers, hyaenas and bears.

In 1810

... one of the first travelling menageries was founded by shoemaker George Wombwell who realised that people outside of London would pay to see wild animals.

By 1839 his menagerie had 15 wagons of animals and a brass band. It received a visit from Queen Victoria at Windsor Fair in 1847. The menagerie inspired circuses to start using animals in their shows. Impresario George Sanger even invited Wombwell's lion trainer to perform at his circus.


... Sir Stamford Raffles founded The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

In 1828

... London Zoo was founded for the study of animal species thanks to a growing Victorian interest in natural science. The zoo was run by ZSL in Regents Park and was only open to members. Because the large collection of animals was costly to feed and maintain it opened to the general public in 1847. Bristol Zoo, Edinburgh Zoological Gardens and Belle Vue Zoo near Manchester were also founded around this time.


The Zoological Society of London is granted a Royal Charter by King George IV.


Most of the animals from the Tower Menagerie were transferred to the London Zoo which did not receive all the animals but rather shared them with Dublin Zoo.


The Tower Menagerie was finally closed on the orders of the Duke of Wellington. The Tower Menagerie in London can be considered to have been the royal menagerie of England for six centuries.

Also in 1835 a Chimpanzee was exhibited at London Zoo for the first time.

In 1838

... Charles Darwin saw his first orangutan, called Jenny, at London Zoo. He watched in amazement as she had a tantrum over a withheld apple.

The naturalist observed that Jenny's intelligence and emotional expression was similar to a human child. He was profoundly moved by the experience and it influenced his theory of evolution published 20 years later.

In the 1850's

... London Zoo exhibited the first hippo in Europe since the time of the Roman Empire.

The young animal, called Obaysch, weighed 37st and attracted up to 10,000 visitors a day. The zoo then bought Jumbo the elephant who became the new star of the collection. Bristol Zoo acquired Zebi the elephant who entertained visitors by eating straw hats.

In 1917

... The public was so fascinated by wild animals that Harrods opened an exotic pet store.

Wealthy customers could buy animals from tiger cubs to alligators. Many of these creatures were given to zoos after they grew too big or unmanageable for their owners.


The need to keep and study large animals in more natural surroundings became apparent. Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell (ZSL Secretary 1903-35) envisaged a new park no more than 70 miles from London, over 200 acres in size and easily accessible to the visiting public. In 1926 an ideal site was found, derelict Hall Farm, near Whipsnade village, nearly 600 acres on the Chiltern Downs. ZSL purchased the farm in December 1926 for £13,480 12s 10d.


...In the early 20th century zoos were inspired by Carl Hagenbeck's zoo in Hamburg, which gave animals more space to roam.

George Mottershead opened Chester Zoo in the Cheshire countryside where there was plenty of room to expand. In the same year ZSL opened the first wildlife park at Whipsnade, inspired by the vast nature reserves in Africs.


...When WWI broke out there were fears that wild animals could escape during air raids.

Some zoos responded by putting down animals such as poisonous snakes and lions. Others moved their animals to safer places. Bristol’s big cats were evacuated to Chester.


... David Attenborough presented his first nature programme. He spent three months in Sierra Leone looking for wild animals to put in zoos.

The project was sponsored by the Zoological Society of London and featured in the TV programme ‘Zoo Quest.’ The public saw what life was like for animals in the wild compared to captivity.


...A new wildlife park was set up in Jersey with the founding principle of preserving endangered species.

Owner Gerald Durrell was deeply affected on his travels when he observed animals losing their habitat and struggling for survival in the wild. He made it his zoo’s mission to save species from extinction.


...The first safari park allowed visitors to drive past animals in the grounds of Longleat House in Wiltshire.

It was set up by the former circus-owner Jimmy Chipperfield and the Henry Frederick Thynne, Marquess of Bath. This was the heyday of British zoos with a number of suburban zoos and safari-style parks opening their doors.


...In the 1960s and 1970s there was a growing unease about how animals were treated in captivity.

Philosopher Peter Singer reflected this concern in his book, Animal Liberation. In it he argued that animals could suffer just as much as humans and therefore their interests were worthy of equal consideration. He argued humans were guilty of species prejudice. These ideas inspired the nascent animal rights movement.


...The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 set standards for animal enclosures in Britain.

It also required that zoos focused on conservation and education. Zoos began to breed animals in captivity rather than taking them from the wild. Soon afterwards animal rights charity Zoo Check was set up to help protect the welfare of captive animals.


... in the early 1990s zoos were in crisis. Many suffered a significant drop in visitors.

Surveys of the time suggested three quarters of Britons were opposed to keeping animals in captivity. At one point London Zoo was months from closure after government funding cuts.


... Zoos began to shift towards better animal care and conservation in response to the crisis.

One of the first signs was zoo involvement in breed and release programmes for endangered animals. London Zoo worked with the Saudi Wildlife Authority to release 100 sand gazelles in Saudi Arabia. It was the world's largest release of captive-bred mammals.


...Bristol Zoo invested in 'Seal and Penguin Coasts', which included deep pools fitted with wave machines, beaches and islands.

It marked a shift among big zoos towards building ‘showstopper enclosures’ from Spirit of the Jaguar at Chester to Gorilla Kingdom at London.


... Progressive zoos became home-bases for animal conservation work across the world.

At Chester Zoo staff built bridges linking up pockets of orangutan habitat in Borneo. Orangutan populations had become increasingly isolated from one another as their habitat was threatened by palm oil plantations, roads and villages. Zoos were now as committed to animals in the wild as those in their care.

Zookeepers look after animals in zoos and safari parks. They also work in aquariums and sometimes in the wild. They work with all types of animals.

Major British Zoos

  • Banham Zoo Banham Norfolk
  • Belfast Zoological Gardens Belfast
  • Blackpool Zoo Blackpool Lancashire
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens Bristol Avon
  • Chessington Zoo Chessington Surrey
  • Chester Zoo Chester Cheshire
  • Colchester Zoo Colchester Essex
  • Drusillas Zoo Park Alfriston East Sussex
  • Dublin Zoo Dublin Eire
  • Dudley Zoo Dudley West Midlands
  • Edinburgh Zoo Edinburgh
  • Glasgow Zoo Park Glasgow
  • Howletts Zoo Park Canterbury Kent
  • Jersey Zoo Trinity Jersey, Channel Isles
  • London Zoo LONDON
  • Marwell Zoological Park Colden Common Hampshire
  • Newquay Zoo Newquay Cornwall
  • Paignton Zoo Paignton Devon
  • Port Lympne Wild Animal Park Port Lympne Kent
  • Twycross Zoo Twycross Warwickshire
  • Welsh Mountain Zoo Colwyn Bay
  • Whipsnade Wild Animal Park Whipsnade Bedfordshire

References and Sources
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