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His­tory

Founded on April 26, 1895 as the New York Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety, the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS) was one of the first con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. The Society’s orig­i­nal objec­tives were: “to estab­lish and main­tain a zoo­log­i­cal gar­den for the pur­pose of encour­ag­ing the study of zool­ogy, orig­i­nal researches in the same and kin­dred sub­jects, and of fur­nish­ing instruc­tions and recre­ation to the peo­ple”. To advance wildlife con­ser­va­tion was added to the objec­tives not much later. This started with preser­va­tion of native ani­mals of North Amer­ica as a com­bined effort with other organ­i­sa­tions, and has evolved into a huge wildlife con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme (see web­site WCS).

The Bronx Zoo opened its gates to the pub­lic on Novem­ber 8, 1899, with a col­lec­tion of 843 spec­i­mens rep­re­sent­ing 157 species. Soon it joined the ranks of New York City’s most beloved cul­tural insti­tu­tions. William T. Hor­na­day, who failed to be appointed direc­tor of the National Zoo in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., became the first direc­tor of the New York Zoo­log­i­cal Park, now Bronx Zoo. This allowed him to imple­ment his ideas con­cern­ing zoo man­age­ment finally, and in the process he set the stan­dard for other Amer­i­can zoos. Besides this the NY Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety were the first to estab­lish an Amer­i­can zoo-​related sci­en­tific jour­nal (pub­lished from 1907 to 1973), to estab­lish a vet­eri­nary clinic (in 1916), to develop a zoo-​based field research pro­gramme (1916). The Zoo was also instru­men­tal in sav­ing the Amer­i­can bison from extinc­tion.

Bronx Zoo was cer­tainly not the first to imple­ment Carl Hagenbeck’s ideas on mod­ern design of open, moated enclo­sures with­out bars. This hon­our was reserved for Den­ver Zoo (1918), St. Louis Zoo (1919) and Detroit Zoo (1920). The intro­duc­tion of the bar­less con­cept took only place after WWI, because of America’s atten­tion for the Euro­pean con­flicts. The Zoo even got involved in 1917 when the lion house was turned over to the Amer­i­can Red Cross and a com­pany of sol­diers (zoo employ­ees) was formed at the WCS expense. Nev­er­the­less Amer­i­can zoos fared bet­ter than did Euro­pean zoos. This enabled NY Zoo­log­i­cal Park to help Antwerp Zoo to re-​populate their premises with 329 ani­mals after the war.

The ini­tial suc­cess of the New York Zoo­log­i­cal Park led WCS to acquire four more wildlife parks over the course of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. In 1902, WCS took over man­age­ment of the New York Aquar­ium, then in Manhattan’s Bat­tery Park, and in the mid-​1950s, relo­cated it to Coney Island, Brook­lyn. In 1988, the for­mer menagerie in Manhattan’s Cen­tral Park reopened as WCS’s Cen­tral Park Zoo. The Queens Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo opened in 1992 and 1993, respec­tively. Together, the five parks draw more than 4 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year.

(Sources: web­site Bronx Zoo, and “Zoo and Aquar­ium His­tory” by Ver­non N. Kisling, jr.)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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