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History

  • Written by Lajos Endrédi
  • Category: History
  • Hits: 245

Sad Ballad of Murderous Mary

Execution of Mary (source: Wikipedia)You might see this photo, and thought about it whether real or fake. Nevertheless, the old picture is strange enough, you can see hanging of an elephant. What is the story of it? Was it a real execution and what was the sin of this luckless animal? The story of Murderous Mary was really sorrowful likes a ballad about the miserable life of a circus elephant and the bloodthirsty crowd which didn’t mercy on her. What is the truth about this story?

Erwin, Tennessee, 1916. A small town in the motherland of Klu Klux Klan where people occasionally like to justice itself by some lynching. On 13th of September a circus provided this kind of social experiences for the inhabitants and visitors of the town: after the matinee performance a free public hanging was announced, the execution of a notorious killer. The sinner was an Asian elephant…

In the medieval ages it was not rare that animals were sentenced to death in courts. However, in the modern ages it was not part of the legal system, but in this case the public hysteria and economic consideration led to this bloody revenge and brutal attraction.

  • Written by elajos
  • Category: History
  • Hits: 1184

Famous Zoo Animals: Winnie, the Bear

Harry Colebourn and Winnie, 1914 (source: Wikipedia)Many zoo professionals often prefer an unemotional approach to animals, which could be acceptable if we only considered animals gene carriers, genes we should save and preserve for the future. This approach is an important condition of population-level conservation work, but… we also have to consider the emotional aspects in the case of zoos. Here many animals have a name, are loved and followed individually by visitors. Even zoos force this kind of impersonation, which could help with the propaganda, education work and increase the income. It is not a new phenomenon, there have been Knut-like favourites in the early era of modern zoos too. Some zoo heroes even entered literature, as did the world’s most famous bear cub: Winnie-the-Pooh. Let’s see, who was Winnie originally!

  • Written by Lajos Endrédi
  • Category: History
  • Hits: 4328

Practicality and Design – A Brief History of ‘Zoo Fashion’

A uniformed man feeding an alligator at an alligator farm (possibly the California Alligator Farm, Los Angeles), ca.1900 (source: Wikimedia Commons)I am usually amazed by how some visitors dress for visiting a zoo. Have you ever seen the provincial family in their Sunday best? Or have you met the elegant lady staggering as a new-born camel in high-heeled shoes on the dirty pathway? Or the guy sweating in survival equipment in a tropical house in the middle of a city? Experienced visitors, on the other hand, choose the most appropriate clothes for visiting a zoo, of course. But how do zoo workers dress? Do they wear convenient and practical clothes, or should they accept other aspects as well?

Zoo employees are an important part of the whole design like in any other branch of entertainment. The visitors expect to see the workers as the representatives of this strange and fabulous world. In other words, a lot of visitors regard zoo workers as living in a dream world; so their appearance should reflect this expectation. It is also important that visitors can identify insiders quickly; zoo managers should facilitate this too, leading to uniforms.

  • Written by Lajos Endrédi
  • Category: History
  • Hits: 4826

Five Horrific Zoo Disasters

Noah's Ark and the too large flood...Although zoos are usually regarded as modern Noah’s Arks, they can turn into battered dinghies in disasters – like any other achievement of our civilization. Moreover, the inhabitants of zoos are more vulnerable since the systems designed to prevent escape often reduce their chance of survival. The fates of escaping big animals are not too promising either; they are usually hunted down in order to protect people.

There can be disasters of either natural or human origin. Could we avoid these tragedies?  Let us see some of the major disasters of zoo history, and we may find an answer to this question...

  • Written by Tamás Veress
  • Category: History
  • Hits: 3019

An Overview of the History of Captive Giraffes

Overview of giraffe subspecies in the wild

Kordofan giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum) in Szeged Zoo, Hungary (photo: elajos)Giraffes are among the most popular animals kept in zoos. However, while a giraffe is ’only’ a giraffe for most of the visitors, it is also an important genetic resource for the survival of the species in the eyes of the staff of zoos and other conservation organisations, who are working to preserve genetically pure giraffe subspecies.

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) inhabits a lot of savannah areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, but these areas are fragmented and isolated from each other. Nine subspecies are living in these separated areas. Due to the geographical isolation pattern, differences have developed in these subspecies.

  • Written by Lajos Endrédi
  • Category: History
  • Hits: 4623

The Dark Side of the History of Zoos – The Human Zoo

An ad for a "Peoples Show" (Völkerschau) in Stuttgart (Germany), 1928 (source: Wikipedia)Creating a human exhibit – in modern zoos it looks like a somewhat boring cliché which may be funny only for newborns. However, it was a common practice in the era of colonisation when ‘primitive’ indigenous people were regarded as a part of the exotic fauna. It was pure racism, even in the 1950s. Although racism is still a living problem in the world, fortunately this idea is not acceptable, neither presentable in modern zoos. Let’s take a look at the history of human zoos.

During Antiquity and the Middle Ages expeditions collected strange living creatures, including the different people of far countries. The Greeks mentioned small people who always fought cranes – the pygmies. Small, giant or particularly hairy people played an important role in myths as magical creatures, so they were collected and used for cultic and ritual-orgiastic purposes. It is an interesting question whether the ancestors of modern humans did or did not meet other human species while conquering the world – for example the ‘hobbits’ in Flores (and some believe in meeting late Gigantopithecus blacki individuals as well in Southeast Asia).

Enter the zoo world!