If they had survived to 1945, sadly many of our colleagues in European zoos and further afield would have surveyed empty zoos with few animals and often merely piles of rubble or DPs (displaced people and refugees).
Our World War Zoo research project and blog aims to uncover and collect many of the strange tales from this time not only for their own merit, but as a tribute to people of that difficult time and also for what lessons we can learn for our own future. There are lessons to be learnt for the coming days when our food and fuel, resources and climate may become scarce or more unpredictable.
Our World War Zoo project will be a practical living memorial, almost history that you can eat in the form of a wartime “dig for victory garden” being recreated at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. More news of this project follows over the next few weeks as we prepare the ground and get planting this week preparing for Autumn and winter.
Postscript: If you seek another more poignant memorial, visit London Zoo, possibly the world’s most famous but not oldest zoo. Tucked away near the Lion houses and modern zoo buildings is a simple stone cross with well polished brass plaques, the inscription almost obliterated in places. Here are listed simply and respectfully the names of those servants, ‘helpers’ and keepers of London Zoo and Whipsnade who died on active service. Every year a gathering of keepers lays a wreath of poppies on the stone steps and stands quiet during the two minutes silence, as do keepers in zoos all over Britain, remembering this extraordinary time amid the noise of animals calling throughout the park. A strange and atmospheric two minutes of (not very) silence …
Watch this space!
World War Zoo Project team, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK