London Zoo celebrates its 180th birthday
I was about 9 and my mum promised my brother and I she would take us one day when we were off school. So when that day finally came, I was so excited. I had never seen such a well kept, and well fed group of animals before. I had been to other zoos, but never had I seen the selection that the London Zoo has.
I suppose in a way it's sad to keep animals in cages and on display for humans, but London Zoo has a kind of magic to it - and that is something that I hope will continue for another 180 years.
It is now one of the world's leading conservation organisations, helping to protect endangered wildlife with breeding programmes, carrying out vital research and educating the public. But when London Zoo opened its doors 180 years ago, experts were more interested in turning its exotic creatures into beasts of burden and farmyard animals.
Photographs, reports and keepers logs, which have been buried in the Zoological Society of London's archive, provide a glimpse of daily life at the world's first scientific zoo when it opened on 27 April 1828. In one report, experts revealed their plans to domesticate some of the animal species at the zoo, including using zebras to pull carts, exploiting reptiles for medicine and turning antelope and exotic birds into farm animals for food.
The zoo even began running trials in 1831 with zebra-drawn passenger carts to give rides to members of the public around the grounds.
"At that time they wanted to make animals less wild and domesticate them," said John Edwards, vice president of the Zoological Society of London and an expert on the history of London Zoo.
"In the early 19th century they would dress up the chimpanzees in human clothes and the public could ride on the animals and play with even the more dangerous animals like bears. That would never happen today.
"The focus now has shifted to such a degree that we are now trying to make sure animals remain wild. They are being bred for reintroduction into the wild rather than being taken out of the wild."
The documents from the zoo's early days have been revealed as part of celebrations marking the 180th anniversary since it opened. Compared to the modern veterinary care and facilities now available, the documents show the challenges that the keepers faced.
Sick animals were regularly treated with a dose of cod liver oil in the absence of any real medicines and they were cared for by the same doctor who also treated the staff rather than a trained vet. Daily logs filled in by the zoo's first superintendent, Edward Johnson, reveal the day to day trials and tribulations that faced the staff as they prepared to open the zoo for the first time.