This month we continue to commemorate the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace by featuring birds of paradise. Wallace brought the first living birds of paradise to ZSL London Zoo; he arrived with them in 1862. Before their display at ZSL, it was generally thought that the birds had no legs and were continually flying. The dead specimens previously seen in Europe were prepared skins with legs removed! Linnaeus himself named these birds Paradisa apoda – footless bird of paradise. The fact they had feet was not confirmed until they were observed in the nineteenth century by Rene Primevere Lesson on a voyage of the French ship La Coquille; he also observed how the birds were prepared by local people. However the myth about them continued until Alfred Russel Wallace reported observing them in the wild. The Lesser birds of paradise displayed at ZSL London Zoo stimulated a great interest in birds of paradise and bower birds and several beautiful, illustrated folio volumes were published describing the many species.
Wallace provided a written account of his narrative of his search for birds of paradise and this was published in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society in 1862. This article and an introduction by Steve Le Comber 'The Scientists! Adventures with Pirates' is freely available to read online as a Hidden Gem.
ZSL Archives contains 40 letters by Wallace to Philip Lutley Sclater, the then Secretary of ZSL. These include a receipt for the purchase of the birds of paradise as well as letters en route from Singapore, Ceylon and Folkstone. We also have a letter from Wallace thanking ZSL for awarding him Fellowship.
Information about the Wallace collection online and Wallace 100 celebrations can be found at the Wallace 100 page
Wallace's publications and items in the ZSL Archives form part of the 'special collections' of ZSL Library. You are welcome to visit and consult/view them but an appointment is necessary.
Please email email@example.com or telephone 020 447 6293 to make an appointment.
We will be offering talks/tours about Wallace to Fellows in early October. Places are limited and must be prebooked with the Fellowship & Development Department. All Fellows should receive booking details in a mailing about Fellowship Events by 13 September.
Many resources are available in ZSL Library and no appointment is necessary to use these, however if you are a ZSL member please bring your membership card. Non-members will need proof of address and photographic ID if you are not already a member of ZSL.
Use our online catalogue to find more detailed information about specific items in our holdings. It also contains links to relevant online resources:
Enjoy reading the Journal of Zoology Virtual issue celebrating Wallace one of the greatest zoologists of all time!
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit
A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.
See the latest ranges, updates and special offers from our exciting new online shop.
Excerpts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.