Where Was the First Zoo?
The predecessor of the zoological garden is the menagerie, which has a long history from the ancient world to modern times. The oldest known zoological collection was revealed during excavations at Hierakonpolis, Egypt in 2009, of a ca. 3500 B.C. menagerie.
The exotic animals included hippos, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and wildcats. King Ashur-bel-kala of the Middle Assyrian Empire created zoological and botanical gardens in the 11th century BC.
The first zoo was formed in China in the 2nd Century B.C. But it was not called a zoo. Wen of Zhou, the ancient Chinese king who started it, wanted to collect different types of animals from all over his empire. He kept them in what he called a “garden of intelligence”, near his palace.
Other well-known collectors of animals included King Solomon of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah, queen Semiramis and king Ashurbanipal of Assyria, and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia.
By the 4th century BCE, zoos existed in most of the Greek city states; Alexander the Great is known to have sent animals that he found on his military expeditions back to Greece. The Roman emperors kept private collections of animals for study or for use in the arena, the latter faring notoriously poorly.
Henry I of England kept a collection of animals at his palace in Woodstock, which reportedly included lions, leopards, and camels. The most prominent collection in medieval England was in the Tower of London, created as early as 1204 by King John I.
Henry III received a wedding gift in 1235 of three leopards from Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and in 1264, the animals were moved to the Bulwark, renamed the Lion Tower, near the main western entrance of the Tower.
It was opened to the public during the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century. During the 18th century, the price of admission was three half-pence, or the supply of a cat or dog for feeding to the lions. The animals were moved to the London Zoo when it opened.
The oldest zoo in the world still in existence is the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria. It was constructed by Adrian van Stekhoven in 1752 at the order of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, husband of Maria Theresa of Austria, to serve as an imperial menagerie as part of Schönbrunn Palace.
The menagerie was initially reserved for the viewing pleasure of the imperial family and the court, but was made accessible to the public in 1765.
In 1775, a zoo was founded in Madrid, and in 1795, the zoo inside the Jardin des Plantes in Paris was founded by Jacques-Henri Bernardin, with animals from the royal menagerie at Versailles, primarily for scientific research and education. The Kazan Zoo, the first zoo in Russia was founded in 1806 by the Professor of Kazan State University Karl Fuchs.
Until the early 19th century, the function of the zoo was often to symbolize royal power, like King Louis XIV’s menagerie at Versailles. The modern zoo that emerged in the early 19th century at London, Paris and Dublin, was focused on providing educational exhibits to the public for entertainment and inspiration.
A growing fascination for natural history and zoology, coupled with the tremendous expansion in the urbanization of London, led to a heightened demand for a greater variety of public forms of entertainment to be made available. The need for public entertainment, as well as the requirements of scholarly research, came together in the founding of the first modern zoos.
The Zoological Society of London was founded in 1826 by Stamford Raffles and established the London Zoo in Regent’s Park two years later in 1828. At its founding, it was the world’s first scientific zoo. Originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study, it was eventually opened to the public in 1847.
The Zoo was located in Regent’s Park – then undergoing development at the hands of the architect John Nash. What set the London zoo apart from its predecessors was its focus on society at large. The zoo was established in the middle of a city for the public, and its layout was designed to cater for the large London population. The London zoo was widely copied as the archetype of the public city zoo. In 1853, the Zoo opened the world’s first public aquarium.
Dublin Zoo was opened in 1831 by members of the medical profession interested in studying animals while they were alive and more particularly getting hold of them when they were dead. The first zoological garden in Australia was Melbourne Zoo in 1860.
In the same year, Central Park Zoo, the first public zoo in the United States, opened in New York, although in 1859, the Philadelphia Zoological Society had made an effort to establish a zoo, but delayed opening it until 1874 because of the American Civil War.
In 1907, the German entrepreneur Carl Hagenbeck founded the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Stellingen, now a quarter of Hamburg. His zoo was a radical departure from the layout of the zoo that had been established in 1828.
It was the first zoo to use open enclosures surrounded by moats, rather than barred cages, to better approximate animals’ natural environments. He also set up mixed-species exhibits and based the layout on the different organizing principle of geography, as opposed to taxonomy.
Some of the largest zoos are in North America. There are big ones in the Bronx, New York City, and in Washington and San Diego. When ecology emerged as a matter of public interest in the 1970s, a few zoos began to consider making conservation their central role, with Gerald Durrell of the Jersey Zoo, George Rabb of Brookfield Zoo, and William Conway of the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society) leading the discussion.
From then on, zoo professionals became increasingly aware of the need to engage themselves in conservation programs, and the American Zoo Association soon said that conservation was its highest priority.
Because they wanted to stress conservation issues, many large zoos stopped the practice of having animals perform tricks for visitors. The Detroit Zoo, for example, stopped its elephant show in 1969, and its chimpanzee show in 1983, acknowledging that the trainers had probably abused the animals to get them to perform.
Whipsnade Park in Bedfordshire, England, was opened in 1931 as the first safari park. It allowed visitors to drive through the enclosures and come into close proximity to the animals.
Unfortunately, mass destruction of wildlife habitat has yet to cease all over the world and many species such as elephants, big cats, penguins, tropical birds, primates, rhinos, exotic reptiles, and many others are in danger of dying out.
Many of today’s zoos hope to stop or slow the decline of many endangered species. Many zoos see their primary purpose as breeding endangered species in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild.
Modern zoos also aim to help teach visitors the importance on animal conservation, often through letting visitors witness the animals firsthand. Some critics and the majority of animal rights activists say that zoos, no matter what their intentions are, or how noble they are, are immoral and serve as nothing but to fulfill human leisure at the expense of the animals (which is an opinion that has shown growth over the years). However, zoo advocates argue that their efforts make a difference in wildlife conservation and education.