Belfast Zoo in the Belfast Blitz 75 years ago 19 April 1941 …
“During World War II, the Ministry of Public Security said we must destroy 33 animals for public safety in case they escaped when the zoo was damaged by air raids.
On 19th April 1941, Mr A McClean MRCVS, head of the Air Raid Protection section, enlisted the help of Constable Ward from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Sergeant E U Murray of the Home Guard to shoot these animals.
The animals included 9 lions (including cubs), 1 hyena, 6 wolves, 1 puma, 1 tiger, 1 ‘black’ bear, 2 brown bears, 2 polar bears, 1 lynx, 2 racoons, 1 vulture, and 1 ‘giant rat’ that is presumed to be a Coypu (a large rodent creature).”
In the account in Juliet Gardner’s The Blitz, the Head Keeper is recorded as having been in tears as he watched.
Similarly, Japanese zoo staff were traumatised by carrying out official orders (from higher military or government authority) the ‘disposal’ of ‘dangerous animals’ in Japanese zoos, due to the threat of air raids, an event described in great detail in Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II by Mayumi Itoh (Palgrave, 2010).
Lest we forget the sacrifices of staff and animals of zoos in wartime.
Posted in remembrance by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.