n this section I will try and give some background of persons who, in my personal view, deserve appreciation for their efforts, importance and influence in the development of animal collections, menageries and zoos through the ages. The selection of persons is not meant to be an exhaustive overview. I selected persons who stand out for different reasons. They may have been world conquerors who brought back with them from their campaigns exotic animals. Or they may have been rich nobleman showing off their wealth by creating their own menageries of exotic animals. Or people involved in trade of these animals, or founders of zoos. There can be more and peculiar reasons, but eventually my personal interest will deliver a list of persons who, at least most of them, have one thing in common: their care for nature, especially animals, and its sustainability. Therefore, the brief biographies are mainly focused on the part of the (v)ip’s life which had something to do with collecting animals.
|Date of birth, Place:||25.07.1875, Naini Tal, India|
|Date of death, Place:||19.04.1955, Nyeri, Kenya|
|Burial site:||Cemetry of St. Peter’s Anglican Church; epitaph: “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away”|
Edward James (Jim) Corbett was of Irish stock. When eighteen his grandfather from father’s side left Dublin for Bengal, India, in 1814, after he voluntarily enlisted for the infantry. Jim was born as second last of nine children to Christopher William Corbett and Mary Jane Doyle (maiden name Prussias) on 25th July 1875 in Naini Tal, Kumaon. Both his father and mother had children from a previous marriage, so Jim had four stepbrothers and two stepsisters. His eldest brother Tom was Jim’s childhood idol who taught him the basic principles of hunting in the forests of Kaladhungi where the Corbetts had their winter home. Tom presented Jim with his first catapult and the first lessons when not to use it, which means that a sportsman never hunts when animals breed or look after their young.
It is assumed that his father had been an army doctor, and ended up being the postmaster in Naini Tal, which was not a bad career move in those days. On his transfer to Naini Tal he secured a grant of land in the village of Choti Haldwani at Kaladhungi. He built a house there, named Arundel (now converted into a Jim Corbett museum), to escape the bitter winters in Naini Tal. And there could have been no better place than Arundel for Jim to become a naturalist.
His father died in 1881 when Jim was still five years old. Although it wasn’t easy for Jim’s mother, who was fifteen years younger than her husband, to raise and educate seven children (the others old enough to fend for themselves) on just a widow’s pension, she managed quite well with the support of her daughter Mary. She even built Gurney House in Naini Tal where Jim was educated and spent most of his summers.
After the death of their mother in 1924, Jim’s favourite sister Margaret (Maggie) and himself were constant companions to each other and both chose not to marry. People have been speculating about Jim staying a bachelor all his life. Was it because he had to accompany his sisters and other neighbourhood girls, as a young boy, when they went bathing in the river? Could it be that the sights and sounds in the canal, especially when certain guests of the family (two boys) were around, put him off from any further involvement with women?
Jim hunted his first leopard at the age of six. He began hunting to help feed his family. Blessed with excellent eyesight, power of observation, keen hearing, remarkable memory, encyclopedic knowledge of the surrounding jungle, stamina and braveness, he became well-known for his jungle and hunting skills. Already from the age of about nine or ten, Jim used to go off into the jungle for several days and nights at a stretch, accompanied by their gardener.
Jim went from school, eighteen years old, straight to Bihar to work as a temporary fuel inspector of the Bengal and North-Western Railway. He would work with the Railway company until 1914. Though not from a wealthy family, he was able to buy real estate, already in 1906, and became a landlord in his hometown Naini Tal. He took good care of his tenants and was a member of the Municipal Board for a few years. So, he followed his father footsteps and was also a Naini Tal city father.
In 1914, when World War I broke out, he returned to Kumaon to raise a labour contingent for the British Army and served in France and Waziristan. After the war he settled down in Naini Tal, where he lived almost continuously until 1947, except for several trips to Tanganyika (modern Tanzania).….1. Both times when the World Wars broke out Jim Corbett offered his services to the army, and both times the army would not have anything to do with an old man (he was thirty-eight when WW I broke out). Nevertheless, both times he served his country well by training a labour force or training allied troops in jungle warfare.
After independence came in India and all their British friends left, Maggie and Jim realised that it would be very difficult for them to remain. So, reluctantly they left for Africa. In 1947, 30 November, Maggie and Jim Corbett left Naini Tal and settled in Nyeri, Kenya. There were several reasons for deciding on Kenya, such as it was a colony where White supremacy was acknowledged were, it had a rich wildlife and Jim’s two closest relations, a niece and a nephew, were in Kenya. Even after he left Jim took good care of his tenants and he ‘freed’ them.
As if a return might be a possibility he maintained legal rights of a sort over the Kaladhungi estate by remitting annually the land revenue to the government. Furthermore he maintained his bank account in Naini Tal until his death.
Jim continued his early career as a writer, describing his ‘killing man-eaters adventures’ when settled in Kenya, where they could live in comfort thanks to the royalties coming in from his first book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1946).
In his last book Tree Tops, published after his death, he recalls his greatest triumph in Kenya, when he escorted Princess Elizabeth — soon to become the Queen of England — to the famous wilderness hotel called Tree Tops.
Already of ill-health since WW II, he suffered a severe heart attack in 1955 and died the same day in hospital. He is buried at a cemetery at Nyeri, Africa, where another tracker and well-known scout, Lord Baden Powell, can be found.
Jim Corbett died as he lived: a simple, unassuming tall man with blue eyes, caring for the people and wildlife of Kumaon, who lived up to his reputation as a hunter and forester, and nearly always wore shorts for clothing.
1Jim Corbett of Kumaon by D.C. Kala
Jim Corbett was known as a shikari, a big game hunter and killer of man-eaters. He loved India and its people and understood their needs and respected their sentiments. It is for them that he risked his life many times when asked to shoot a man-eating tiger or leopard.
His life as a hunter has been a bit romanticised, as if he only killed big cats when they became man-eaters. This was true at a certain point in his life, but it must be said that he organised several shooting parties for high level people like governors, Viceroys and celebrities, including collectors and generals. Although not something to be proud of, it made him one of the most influential men in the United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh, in the 1930-40s.
Jim’s reputation of being an exceptional good tracker and hunter already brought him a request to track down a tiger or leopard that had preyed on humans, as early as 1906, still in his railway days. This is when his active period of man-eater hunting started, which lasted until 1938, although he shot his last one, the marauder of the Ladhya valley, in 1946. Jim had two non-negotiable conditions when he agreed to hunt a man-eater: the district officers should withdraw the reward offered to kill the animal, and no other hunters should be assigned the task. But before all he had to be convinced that the animal was a habitual man-killer. Jim believed that animals that had been disturbed under special conditions, such as a tigress protecting cubs, a tiger on a fresh kill or when wounded, were not man-eaters. These animals should be given the benefit of doubt at least twice before labelling it a man-eater. Corbett was convinced that tigers only turned to man-eating — man being an easy prey — when they were wounded, like having broken canines, being cripple or having other injuries. Therefore he thoroughly examined the animals when shot to back up his theory. Only seldom he found that the suspect was in great shape and perfect health. His theory is supported by research published on 19 April 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports. Two scientists examined the of the two Tsavo man-eating lions which were killed by Colonel J.H. Patterson in Kenya in December 1898. Both lions showed evidence of dental problems, which probably made them turn to easy prey, such as man.
Jim Corbett was a very brave man, but not fearless. He often experienced fear or even terror while waiting for a man-eater to appear. Nevertheless, he would often get very close to the man-eaters who were his quarry, even though they could not be seen in the heavy brush. This risk he could take because he was able to sense danger at the subconscious level (extrasensory perception), and it saved his life several times. In addition he preferred to hunt alone when pursuing dangerous game, on foot. Especially he refused to have armed company while hunting, with only one exception for A.W. Ibbotson, with whom he hunted the Rudrapayag, Thak and Chuka man-eaters. Probably due to his sixth sense, he was quite a superstitious man. He considered Fridays bad for starting journeys, he was sensitive to ghosts all his life and he had the deep-rooted conviction that all his efforts to kill a man-eater would be unavailing until he had first killed a snake.
Like many professional hunters nowadays, Corbett took good care of the grounds he serviced. He had a zoo approach to Kaladhungi and the surrounding forest, zealously guarding the game it harboured. He treated the area as his own private reserve, with his own shooting laws which he enforced. His enormous respect for nature transformed into a conservationist, who worked for the improvement of Indian wildlife.
Jim Corbett had enormous respect for the tiger. This could be one of the reasons that after 1930 he took to photography, as he was of the opinion that: “While the photograph is of interest to all lovers of wild life, the trophy is only of interest to the individual who acquired it.”1 According to an article in the Hindustan Times (14 August 1956) the straw that broke the camel was a shooting party led by Corbett with three military officers. When coming upon a large batch of waterfowl the officers started shooting and went on and on. They killed over 300 birds and could not carry them home. It was just unrestrained slaughter as Jim recalled.
The skills he developed over the years enabled him to beckon animals very close to his camera. Through his footage he wanted to make people aware of the biodiversity of India and sound the alarm about declining numbers of tigers and other wildlife. Being a humanitarian throughout his life, he became an expert naturalist who even started lecturing on wildlife at Naini Tal school. In 1931 he even became a honorary secretary of the Association for the Preservation of Game in United Provinces, which also brought out a journal, Indian Wild Life.
Jim’s opinion and vision on the tigers of India is well reflected in his ‘author’s note’ in Man-eaters of Kumaon: “There is, however, one point on which I am convinced that all sportsmen — no matter whether their point of view has been a platform on a tree, the back of an elephant, or their own feet — will agree with me, and that is, that a tiger is a largehearted gentleman with boundless courage and that when he is exterminated — as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies to his support — India will be the poorer by having lost the finest of her fauna.”
Unfortunately Jim Corbett did not live to see the honour he received from the Indian government by renaming its first national park in 1957 after him, the Jim Corbett National Park. It is famous for the elusive tiger and it harbours many other species, such as deer, wild boar, elephants and birds, though in 2011⁄12 activists claimed that the Park is a haven for poachers (more information here).
Furthermore, in 1968, one of the five remaining subspecies of tigers which is found in Indo-China and extreme South China was named after him, the Panthera tigris corbetti or more commonly the Indochinese tiger or Corbett’s tiger. With this he was honoured as a fellow naturalist by Dr Vratislav Mazak as an ‘excellent naturalist who devoted his life to the study and the protection on Indian wildlife, particularly the tigers’.
1Man-eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
|Date of birth, Place:||01.12.1854, Plainfield, Indiana, USA|
|Date of death, Place:||06.03.1937, Stamford, Connecticut, USA|
|Burial site:||Greenwich, Connecticut, USA|
William Hornaday was a naturalist, hunter, collector, taxidermist, and conservationist. As a young man, he attended college at Oskaloosa College and Iowa State University. He left school in 1873 and went to work for Ward’s Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York, as an apprentice taxidermist. The young Hornaday excelled in his work and soon became a highly regarded collector of wild animals. He was the first person to document the presence of crocodiles in Florida, and later collecting expeditions took him to locations such as Cuba, the Bahamas, South America, India, Ceylon, the Malay Peninsula, and Borneo in the 1870s. In 1886, he published a popular account of his travels, Two Years in the Jungle.
He soon became known for his dramatic “life groups” of animals for museum displays. He was chief taxidermist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum in the 1880s, when he decided to mount a group of bison. The fate of the American Bison seemed to stir Hornaday most deeply, perhaps because he had himself witnessed the systematic slaughter of this species in the West. His difficulty to collect specimens of bison for his exhibit transformed him into an conservationist and his 1889 book, The Extermination of the American Bison, established him as a prominent defender of these animals. Later in his career, in 1902, he co-founded (with Theodore Roosevelt) the National Bison Society.
He campaigned for a zoological park large enough to serve as a breeding facility for bison and other endangered animals. This started with a department of living animals at the Smithsonian, and soon — after some serious lobbying — he was asked by his superiors to survey a site in Washington, D.C., where a permanent zoo could be established. When the Smithsonian Institution purchased Rock Creek Park in 1890, a plan was drafted to create a zoological park. Unfortunately, Hornaday had a dispute with the Secretary of the Smithsonian over his title and duties at the new zoo, and the design of the zoo, and so he left Washington without seeing the zoo completed. Unstoppable, though, he went on to become the founding director of the New York Zoological Society in 1896, a position he held for the next 30 years.
As many American zoos purchased animals from Carl Hagenbeck, American zoo directors soon became familiar with Hagenbeck’s patented idea for animal display. These moated enclosures without bars without obstructed sight lines, became popular with zoogoers very quickly. American zoo directors, however, remained cautious, and William Hornaday was dead set against them. He had several reasons for this. It would decrease the eductional value of the zoo, because it increased the distance between animals and public. The closer the better man can study the animal, according Hornaday. Furthermore, these large and expensive exhibits would become a resource burden and lead to a decrease in the animals on display, said Hornaday.
Hornaday described his ideal zoo as “midway between the typical 30-acre zoological garden of London, Paris, Antwerp, or Philadelphia, and the great private game reserve”. Hornaday envisioned a Zoological Park that would give visitors a real sense of an animal’s behavior and natural habitat.
As director of the New York (Bronx) Zoo Hornaday met some controversy in 1906, when Ota Benga, a pygmy native of the Congo, was exhibited in the monkey house. Benga shot targets with a bow and arrow, wove twine, and wrestled with an orangutan. Soon he decided to close the exhibit, without apologising and suggesting that the incident would form the most amusing passage in the Zoo’s history, when written. Most striking of course, was the difference in response to the exhibition of primitive people in Europe when Carl Hagenbeck first introduced it in the 1870s.
Preserving the fight for wildlife
The Wildlife Conservation Scrapbooks of William T. Hornaday
During his life William T. Hornaday led several campaigns to protect North American wildlife, such as the formation of a protected game preserve in British Columbia, the development of a herd for the Montana National Bison Range, and the development of legislation to regulate the overhunting of wildlife.
In his scrapbooks, Hornaday gathered up the fragments — the thousands of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, pamphlets, correspondence, and ephemera — concerning these campaigns. In doing so, he was consciously constructing a history of early efforts to protect wildlife, a fact underscored by his own title for the collection: The William T. Hornaday Scrapbook Collection on the History of the Wild Life Protection and Extermination.
Ten of these scrapbooks have been digitised and made publicly available online by the Wildlife Conservation Society in April 2014 on the website: hornadayscrapbooks.com.
|Date of birth, Place:||11.12.1475, Florence|
|Date of death, Place:||01.12.1521, Rome|
|Burial site:||Santa Maria sopra Minerva church|
Pope Leo X was the last non-priest to be elected pope. Leo took holy orders at the age of seven and became a cardinal at age 14. Although he had been in the Curia since 1491, he had never been ordained when he was elected pope. Upon hearing the news of his election in 1513, he was quickly ordained in an “unceremonious fashion” in a tent in front of St. Peter’s. He is known primarily for the sale of indulgences to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica and his challenging of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.
He was born Giovanni de’ Medici, the second son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Lorenzo the magnificent, ruler of Florence and a major patron of the arts and sciences. The de’ Medici family was known for collecting wild beasts. Leo’s father, Lorenzo the Magnificent, had cheetahs, bears, tigers, and lions. When Leo was elected to the papacy, he brought lions, leopards, monkeys, civit cats, and bears, which became the papal menagerie kept in a section of the Cortile del Belvedere, the courtyard of the Belvedere in Vatican city. It was on the lower portion of the courtyard that Pope Leo X would parade his prized white elephant Hanno for adoring crowds to see. Because of the pachyderm’s glorious history he was buried in the Cortile del Belvedere.
Leo was educated by some of the leading scholars of the day, such as the poet Angelo Poliziano and the Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino, a fitting foundation for his lifelong love of learning and patronage of the arts.When he became pope, Leo X seem to have said to his brother Giuliano: “Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it.” Whether this is true or not, he sure did enjoy the Papacy. He lived his life in Rome in extravagancy. This, apart from the inherited need to collect, probably explains the exotic animal collections of pope Leo. But it has to be said that he was also lavish in charity, and donated money to hospitals, discharged soldiers, poor students, artists, crippled, etcetera.
Having fallen ill of malaria, supposedly — considering the clinical symptoms and because malaria was endemic in Rome in those days, Pope Leo X died on December 1, 1521, so suddenly that the last sacraments could not be administered; but the contemporary suspicions of poison were unfounded.
The Pope’s elephantAn elephant was part of a collection of impressive and exotic gifts that King Manuel of Portugal gave to Pope Leo X in 1514. The gifts were given in hopes of getting the pope to support Portugal’s struggle against the Moors and other missions in the East. The elephant was a symbol of the great wealth that could be found in Asia and Africa.
The elephant had been shipped from India to Lisbon and was four years old by the time it was sent to Rome. It was very well trained and could obey commands given in both Indian and Portuguese. A Moorish trainer and a Saracen guide came with the elephant to Rome. It is said that the elephant was an albino. White elephants were very rare and received special treatment in India. They were normally reserved for the rulers.
The Romans were very excited about the arrival of the elephant. The beasts appeared fairly frequently in ancient Rome, but by the time of Leo X, they were unheard of. The elephant was scheduled to debut on March 19, 1514, which was the first Sunday of Lent. It was to appear in a procession with the rest of the Portuguese mission. Before the procession, the elephant was at the villa of a very wealthy Cardinal Adriano di Corneto, which was located outside of Porta Angelica. People were so eager to see the animal that they tried to climb through windows and break holes in the masonry. When the time finally came for the procession, a silver tower was put on the elephant’s back. A gold tabernacle and chalice were placed in it along with very elaborate holy vestments. The crowd was very impressed.
The Romans began to call the elephant “Annone,” but this was probably an italianized version of its original name, which historians believe was “Hanno”. These names were probably derived from the Indian word for elephant, which is “aana.”
Hanno the elephant was remarkably well behaved, but there were still a few accidents. One time the animal got so nervous by the huge crowd and commotion that it stampeded. In general though, Hanno was very well trained. When the pope made an appearance, it would genuflect, make loud noises, and even cry. Not all of the elephant’s behavior was believed to be a result of training though. Leo X is said to have loved Hanno like a modern day pet owner loves their cat or dog. It seems that Hanno would spontaneously kneel down and cry “Bar, bar, bar” upon seeing the pope.
When the elephant became ill, Leo got the finest doctors of Rome to help. The pope was very upset. Unfortunately, the doctor’s cure, which was a purgative containing gold, killed his beloved Hanno. The beast died on June 8, 1516. Hanno was buried in the Cortille del Belvedere.
Pope Leo X did not want his dear animal friend to be forgotten. Raphael interrupted his work on the cartoons for the ten tapestries for the Sistine Chapel to paint a fresco of Hanno, which has regrettably been lost.The pope wrote part of an epitaph for Hanno that was added onto by several other people. It was painted on the tower of the gate leading to the Vatican.
|Date of birth, Place:||384 BCE, Stagirus, Greece|
|Date of death, Place:||322 BCE, Chalcis, Greece|
Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato’s theory of forms.
As a prolific writer and polymath, Aristotle radically transformed most, if not all, areas of knowledge he touched. Aristotle wrote as many as 200 treatises, of which only 31 survive. Aristotle was the first to classify areas of human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as mathematics, biology, and ethics. Some of these classifications are still used today.
Aristotle was born in the town of Stagira (the modern town Stavros), a coastal Macedonian town to the north of Greece. His father was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonia, and from this began Aristotle’s long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerably influenced his life. There he probably met and was friends with Philip (later to become king and father to Alexander, the Great).
When Aristotle was around 17, he was sent to Athens by his uncle, Proxenus, to complete his education in Plato’s Academy. After Plato died Aristotle accepted an invitation to join a former student, Hermeias, who was gathering a Platonic circle about him in Assos in Mysia (near Troy). Aristotle spent three years in this environment. During this time, he may have done some of the natural investigations that later became The History of Animals, the earliest known zoological encyclopedia (350 BCE). At the end of Aristotle’s stay in Mysia, he moved to Lesbos (an adjacent island). This move may have been prompted by Theophrastus, a fellow of the Academy who was much influenced by Aristotle. It is probable (according to D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson) that Aristotle performed some important biological investigations during this period.
At the invitation of Philip of Macedonia he became the tutor of his 13 year old son Alexander (later world conqueror); he did this for the next five years.Upon the death of Philip, Alexander succeeded to the kingship and prepared for his subsequent conquests. Aristotle’s work being finished, he returned to Athens (circa 334 – 5), which he had not visited since the death of Plato. He found the Platonic school flourishing under Xenocrates, and Platonism the dominant philosophy of Athens. He thus set up his own school at a place called the Lyceum.
At his school Aristotle also accumulated a large number of manuscripts and created a library that was a model for later libraries in Alexandria and Pergamon. At the sudden death of Alexander in 323, Athens once again was full of anti-Macedonian sentiment. A charge of impiety was brought against Aristotle due to a poem he had written for Hermeias. One martyr for philosophy (Socrates) was enough for Aristotle and so he left his school to his colleague, Theophrastus, and fled to the Chalcis in Euboea. Here in 322 he died of a disease that is still the subject of speculation.
Since almost a third of Aristotle’s writings addresses biological themes, and since these writings may have occurred early in his career, it is very possible that the influence of the biological works upon Aristotle’s other writings is considerable. Aristotle’s biological works (so often neglected) should be given more attention, not only in the history of biology, but also as a way of understanding some of Aristotle’s non-biological writings.
Both Philip of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great appear to have paid Aristotle high honor, and there were stories that Aristotle was supplied by the Macedonian court as a form of gratitude, not only with funds for teaching, but also with thousands of slaves to collect specimens for his studies in natural science (as well as a menagerie of exotic animals for Aristotle to study that Alexander encountered in his conquests). Whether these stories are true or false they certainly are exaggerated. It is unknown for how long the exotic animals were sustained in Aristotle’s menagerie or if they just served as a supply for his pathology studies. But as he made remarkable observations of animal behaviour it is expected that not all animal lives came to an end for dissection purpose.
He studied structural and functional adaptations to habitats, like bird territories, hibernation, behaviour of social animals (bees), and he described cycles of population explosions (vole outbreaks) and consecutive crashes.
Sennacherib, whose name (Sin-ahhe-criba) means ‘the god Sin has replaced the brothers’, came to the throne of Assyria in 704 BCE. Unlike his predecessors, the Sennacherib’s reign was not largely marked by military campaigns, but mainly by architectural renovations, constructions, and expansions. The new king shifted the capital from Dur-Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) to the ancient city of Nineveh, which he rebuilt in unparalleled splendour. This great palace, which Sennacherib describes in his inscriptions as ‘without rival’, is known today as the South-West Palace. Many rooms were decorated with alabaster wall reliefs.
Sennacherib laid out several parks around his capital (Nineveh) and imported trees and other plants. He also re-created a southern Babylonian marsh environment when he had a swamp created and populated with animals and plants imported from the actual marsh habitat he admired.
During his military campaigns Sennacherib was mainly preoccupied with trying to resolve the political situation in Babylonia, a region that had only recently been retaken by his father Sargon II. From 703 – 689 BCE Sennacherib fought to control south Mesopotamia until finally, after a fifteen-month siege, the city of Babylon was captured and sacked. In 701 BC Sennacherib sacked the city of Lachish in Judah but failed to take the capital Jerusalem. In 681 BCE Sennacherib was assassinated by two of his sons while he prayed in a temple. He was succeeded by another son, Esarhaddon.
Sennacherib’s predecessors kept a variety of animals in parks. Herds of deer, gazelle and ibex for instance were transported from conquered territories to Assyria, and species like lions, apes, ostriches and falcons of which some species were never before seen in Assyria. Not only animals were imported, also foreign trees and fruiting plants. But, Sennacherib was the first to create dedicated areas for these exotic animals and plants as an ecosystem exhibit. He is also believed to be the creator of the famous hanging gardens of Babylon, which were actually at the palace garden of Sennacherib located at Nineveh.