Vintage Zoo Animal Photos

The Hippopotamus at the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, photo by Count de Montizon, 1852

These images were taken at a time when zoos obtained their animals from the wild and as gifts from wealthy collectors. Modern veterinary medicine was in its infancy and even so, the medical needs of these wild animals were poorly understood. Cleanliness was emphasized, thus barren enclosures often with concrete floors were used. Unlike modern zoos, social needs and environmental enrichment were not considerations. And at some zoos, the animals were exploited for entertainment.

Six pages from the book Wild Animals in and out of the Zoo by William M. Mann, 1930. Note that the anteater was fed milk and eggs.
Kangaroo photos by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887
Lion photos by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887
Thylacine family at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1910
Photos taken by Lee S. Crandall at the New York Zoological Park appearing in the book Pets and How to Care for Them by Lee S. Crandall, 1921
Two photos of a child on a hippo by O.C. Conkling, the official photographer for the Zoological Society of St. Louis, from the booklet Photographs of Scenes in Zoological Park Saint Louis, ca. 1920s
Orangutan holding a rifle and riding a tricycle by O.C. Conkling, the official photographer for the Zoological Society of St. Louis, from the booklet Photographs of Scenes in Zoological Park Saint Louis, ca. 1920s
Two captioned photos from the book Domesticated Animals and Plants by Eugene Davenport, 1910
Jaguar eating at a zoo in Australia, possibly the Royal Park in Melbourne, early 1900s (photographer unknown)
Two photos by Walter Sydney Berridge from his book Animals at the Zoo, 1907

Related reading:

The Ethical Evolution of Zoos looks at the history of displaying wild animals, the individuals who influenced change (including an animal dealer who exhibited human beings) and the development of immersion exhibits where visitors could feel as if they were observing animals in the wild.

An opinion piece on zoos written in the aftermath of the killing of Harambe the gorilla in Cincinnati, 2016.

Conservation, education and research efforts provided by zoos have been financially undermined because of pandemic restrictions.

Posted in zoo

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