Zoos present a certain blend of nature and culture. They have always provided a way to bring natural wildlife and urban Americans together as a means of entertainment. Yet, throughout the years the role of zoos have changed. Though once used for amusement, zoos are now being used for education on preservation and the welfare of endangered species. One may wonder where and how the idea of zoos started and just how they, and the environment around them, have changed throughout history.
The concepts of zoos have been around for centuries throughout the world. The earliest known zoo of the pre-modern past was that of Queen Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth dynasty in Egypt in 1400 BC (Graetz). According to the Encyclopedia of world zoos, most zoos were started by kings and emperors instead of queens, during this age, an abundance of exotic animals were viewed as a collectables and a sign of wealth and power. Though to the Greeks, they used their public zoos as means to teach students about animals and plants (Bell 1213).
This view of collecting exotic animals as signs of wealth and power remained dominant throughout other cultures in history. The author of Animal attractions: nature display in American zoos, Elizabeth Hanson states: “During the Renaissance, explorers and traders collected live animals on their voyages and royal menageries became symbols of status and power..Only a privileged few had access to such collections.” (Hanson 3). A royal menagerie was a form of collecting and keeping exotic, as well as common wildlife, in captivity that surpassed the zoological garden. Thus, the thought of animals being displayed for the public and for education was more of a Western cultural idea.
However, some attempts to manage wildlife in America in the 1800s were not very successful until the beginning of the twentieth century. But these realizations were a great efforts beginning to wildlife management in America. People began to realize that the amount of wildlife that had been present to the early colonies were not inexhaustible (Deal 2). Those early settlers had no idea how abundant wild fauna in the new land or how to utilize it. It took nearly two hundred years for agriculture to get used to American soil and its wildlife.
Author Vernon Kisling, of Zoo and aquarium history: ancient animal collections to zoological gardens makes a great statement: “Cultural institutions, such as zoos, change like the cultures that foster them” (Kisling 163). For modern zoos, they were said to have begun in London in the 1820s with London’s Regent Park Zoo (Graetz). These modern zoos, as well as those in Germany, began to take the place of royal menageries and set examples for the American culture. The first zoo to be built in America was established in Philadelphia in 1874 (Philadelphia zoo). During the time that America was transitioning from an agricultural nation to an industrial one.
Before the grand opening of America’s first zoo,...