One of the most interesting parts of archive collection at the ZSL Library is our series of Daily Occurrences from ZSL London and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. These are large ledger books where the day’s comings and goings at the Zoos were written down. They note animal births, deaths and illness; animals that we had bought or sold, as well as the numbers of visitors and the amount of money taken. Other details included particular visitors such as well-known names, absent keepers, building works, temperatures in the animal houses, and the weather! With such a breadth of information, they are a fascinating resource not only for those in the zoological field, but also historians interested in any of the above.
Below is the first page from the very first volume of 1828. It notes that we received 11 wild ducks and six silver haired rabbits, an emu laid a fourth egg, and one otter sadly died “in consequence of a diseased tail”. Other details noted in the first entry include building a pit for the bears, and information regarding the four visitors who came to the Zoo, including Lord Auckland, a politician of the Whig party at the time.
The volumes afford us a fascinating insight not only into the daily life of the Zoos but also snap shots into such turbulent times as WW2. The two entries below are from Friday 16 June 1944, and Saturday 24 June 1944. In the first entry you can see it notes “first ‘pilotless plane’ raid ‘flying bombs’” - which was the V1 flying bombs falling on London.
In the second entry, it is noted that “flying bomb dropped in gardens. Hit tree on canal bank (middle gardens) and exploded in the air. No casualties apart from 2 birds killed – see “Departures” – but very considerable material damage (approx. 6.15am)”. Those two birds were a Bel’s Pheasant and a Hybrid Ceylon Jungle Fowl.
Thanks to a donation by Dr Beryl Leigh, we have had the volumes of the daily occurrences for the years 1828 and 1943-6 from ZSL London Zoo, and the first volume from ZSL Whipsnade (1931) digitised. You can view the PDFs on our library catalogue here and here.
If you wish to view any other editions of the Daily Occurrences, or to consult any of our other archive collections for research, please email email@example.com to make an appointment.
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