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1881-1890

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The covered bandstand, erected in 1880, was the gift of Mr. Charles Henry Gatty, F.Z.S., of Felbridge Park, East Grinstead. In the south-east corner, near the reservoir, ground was cleared for the new reptile house. The Council reported that plans were in preparation, adding that these would require careful study, as the subject was a difficult one, and the only building of the kind yet attempted was that in the Jardin des Plantes at Paris. Some small studies were erected at the back of the Prosector's office for the use of naturalists engaged in special investigations.


Just as the Society, in 1849, opened the first reptile house in connection with a zoological garden, and in 1853 the first aquarium, so now, in 1881, the first systematic attempt was made to form a collection of living insects for exhibition. The iron-and-glass building used as an insect house was removed to its present position from the South Garden, where it had formed part of the refreshment-room. The cases were arranged on stands round the building, and on tables in the centre, and the general plan with regard to their disposition was much the same as it is now. The specimens were well labelled, and preserved specimens of the different stages of metamorphosis were shown in a box over the principal cases. One feature, somewhat neglected of late years, was the development of aquatic insects, as exemplified in dragon-fly larvae and caddis-worms.


The reserve shed for duplicates and stock requiring seclusion was built in 1882 at the rear of the cattle sheds; and at the end of the fish house — for so the Aquarium was now called — the tank was put up to show the movements of diving birds (such as auks, guillemots, and penguins) under water. On account of diminishing receipts from the Gardens there had been some idea of postponing the works for the new reptile house; but as the admissions increased in 1882, the contract was signed in August and the building commenced. In the Middle Garden shelter was provided for the kangaroos by fixing a glass roof to the sheds opposite the lecture hall.

In August, 1883, the reptile house was completed, stocked, and opened to the public. The building is 160 ft. long by 60 ft wide, and has keepers' rooms at the rear, and in front a porch with an entrance at each end. In this porch, in movable cages are kept lizards, toads, and frogs that do not need a high temperature. Three sides of the hall are fitted with large glass-fronted cages carried on a slate platform which forms a chamber for the hot-water pipes, so that the heat is confined, as far as possible, to the cages. The glass fronts are fixed, and the only access for feeding or cleaning is by a sliding door worked from the keepers' passage at the back, to which the public are not admitted. On the south side are movable glass cages, on stands, for small lizards and snakes, and recently an inner row of terraria for frogs and toads has been added. In the centre is a large oval tank, about 25 ft. in the longer and 12 ft. in the shorter diameter, for large crocodiles and alligators, with one, less ample, on each side, for smaller aquatic reptiles.

Among the mammals exhibited for the first time in 1885 were the Siamese gibbon, according to Dr. H. 0. Forbes only a geographical race of the agile gibbon, one of the early acquisitions of the Society; the "pleasant" antelope, and the pale fennec fox. Among the birds were the brown pelican, wattled starling, striated coly, Gouldian finch, and black-browed albatross, from the Cape.

Very important additions were made in 1890. Mr. J. A. NicoUs presented a young female Selous's antelope, the first example to reach Europe alive.

The event that attracted most attention from the general public during this decade was the sale of Jumbo, the great African elephant, to Barnum. The facts of the case were simple; yet the motives of the President, Council, and Secretary seem to have been misunderstood, and many of the articles on the subject did small credit to the wisdom of a section of the newspaper Press.

After May 1 riding tickets were introduced. Previously there had been no fixed charge for rides on elephants and camels; people gave the keepers a tip, and the Society was not benefited. Twopence each was charged for the tickets, but the price was soon reduced to a penny for a camel-ride. By December 31 £305 had been received under this regulation, which still works well, and a portion of the money is divided among the keepers concerned. The Broad Walk in the South Garden, on a fine afternoon when the elephants are carrying, presents an animated scene.

On the suggestion of one of the Fellows, the Council decided to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, on June 16, 1887, by holding the monthly meeting in the Gardens. After the formal business, the Silver Medal was presented to the Maharajah of Ruch-Behar in acknowledgment of His Highness's valuable donations to the Menagerie. The President then delivered an address, sketching briefly the history of the Society.

(Partial text:) The Zoological Society of London. This Edition is limited to 1,000 copies, of which this is No.377. 1905. Henry Scherren, F.Z.S., Member of the British Ornithologists; Union.

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Zoological Society of London
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