The Zoo: The Wild and Won­der­ful Tale of the Found­ing of Lon­don Zoo: 1826-1851

Iso­bel Char­man

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

Pe­ga­sus Hard­cover $27.95 (368pp) 978-1-68177-356-8 This is a vivid, panoramic ac­count of the first great public zoo.

Iso­bel Char­man’s The Zoo is an imag­i­na­tively writ­ten his­tory of the world’s first zoo, opened in Lon­don in 1828, con­veyed through the per­spec­tives of seven his­tor­i­cal fig­ures.

In­cluded among th­ese seven per­spec­tives are Sir Stam­ford Raf­fles, who ini­ti­ated the col­lec­tion of species for the pro­posed in­sti­tu­tion; ar­chi­tect Dec­imus Bur­ton, re­spon­si­ble for the unique de­sign of an­i­mal hold­ings, like the high-doored gi­raffe house; Dev­ereux Fuller, the Lon­don Zoo’s head keeper in the 1830s; Charles Spooner, a ve­teri­nary sur­geon; Charles Darwin, a cor­re­spond­ing mem­ber; and the aged Earl of Derby, pres­i­dent of the Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of Lon­don.

Through th­ese dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent points of view—mined from jour­nals and staff records, mu­seum cat­a­logs and ar­chi­tec­tural plans— Char­man of­fers a panoramic ac­count of the first great public zoo and the tur­bu­lent era in which it came into be­ing. Added to this is a cav­al­cade of ex­otic species like kan­ga­roos, emus, leop­ards, a black bear named Toby and Obaysch the hip­popota­mus—the first ever seen by Bri­tish cit­i­zens. The sto­ries of th­ese crea­tures’ of­ten dif­fi­cult trans­port from their na­tive lands, as well as their ac­cli­ma­tion to Lon­don weather and treat­ment by well-mean­ing though of­ten in­ex­pe­ri­enced keep­ers, lends a spe­cial pathos to this ad­ven­ture in nat­u­ral science.

The Zoo is distin­guished by the au­thor’s vivid por­trayal of the times, as well as her bold­ness in in­hab­it­ing the view­points of th­ese driven men. When, for ex­am­ple, Darwin vis­ited the new zoo and came upon the rhi­noc­eros en­clo­sure, “he was greeted by the re­mark­able sight of the rhi­noc­eros run­ning at great speed around its yard.” Even for a great thinker who had al­ready seen so much of the world, Darwin “laughed out loud when he saw it, rush­ing to the bars” and, stand­ing with other spec­ta­tors, was “treated to the spec­ta­cle of the huge,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.