Opened in the summer of 1836, Bristol Zoo is exceptional.
Not only did it survive while many other British provincial zoos quickly collapsed, it remains today the fifth oldest zoo in the world and the oldest surviving zoo outside of a capital city.
Its history – over 182 years of it – is complicated and sometimes confusing. This talk relays a version of that history.
It does so by focusing in on some of Bristol’s most famous animals, and the people who occupied the zoo alongside them.
From enchanting chimpanzees in the late 1830s, through to celebrity gorillas who became famous across the English-speaking world and, later, disturbed polar bears who paced their faux white wilderness, evoking visions of torment and a yearning for a more innocent wildness, the talk will not only consider the origins of Bristol’s own ‘living laboratory’, but will also contend that Bristol’s Zoo was made by the ‘wild’ animals within it.
Speaker: Dr Andy Flack is Lecturer in Modern and Environmental History at the University of Bristol.
This is a UWE Regional History Centre talk.