“For it was never intended, from the beginning…” conservation action and advocacy at NYZS

WCS Archives holds a number of collections that tell the story of the New York Zoological Society and its activities in the realm of public affairs. A portion of these materials relate to the former Department of Government Affairs which, from the period of the 1960s-1980s, produced records that serve to provide a snapshot into the Society’s contributions towards wildlife conservation legislation.

During the 1960s to 1980s, NYZS underwent a significant period of organizational change. The Society was re-orientating its focus from the exhibition of global wildlife within its urban zoological park, to further fulfilling its greater role in the preservation of wildlife and ecosystems through increasing national and international activities in research and conservation.

“For it was never intended, from the beginning, that the Zoological Society’s interests should be bounded by the fences around the Zoo and Aquarium.” – Fairfield Osborn. President, 1940-1968. New York Zoological Society. (NYZS 1977 Annual Report, cover page).

Internationally, research and conservation activities included field studies carried out in the Serengeti (1965), Uganda (1966), Tanzania (1967), and China (1980). Establishment of wildlife areas and reserves in countries including Bolivia (Laguna Colorada Reserve, 1960), Argentina (coastal reserves including Punta Tombo and Península Valdés, 1969), Belize (Cockscomb Basin, 1984), and Brazil (Sustainable Development Reserve via NYZS Mamiraua Lake Ecological Station 1989), were supported by the Society’s research and conservation related activities in those regions. Ecotourism collaborations in the 1970s and 1980s included the program created in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in 1979, and developmental contributions towards Kenya’s Wildlife Service Nairobi Safari Walk in 1987. The first zoo-based field veterinary program was initiated in 1989.

Reverse side of “Conservation in the Field” promotional pamphlet, circa 1970s. Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2018.

Reverse side of “Conservation in the Field” promotional pamphlets, circa 1970s. Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2018.

Closer to home, NYZS worked with Rockefeller University to establish the Institute for Research in Animal Behavior in New York, 1965. The Center for Field Biology and Conservation and the Society’s first Conservation Department emerged during the 1970s. Also during this decade, the Society launched its special endangered species and study facility, the Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherines Island, Georgia in 1974-75, and the Animal Research and Conservation Center in 1980s.

Press release for the opening of the Wildlife Survival Centre on St. Catherines Island, Georgia, page 1, circa 1974-1975. Scanned from WCS Archives public affairs collections.

Press release for the opening of the Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherines Island, Georgia, page 1, circa 1974-1975. Scanned from WCS Archives public affairs collections.

Press release for the opening of the Wildlife Survival Centre on St. Catherines Island, Georgia, page 1, circa 1974-1975. Scanned from WCS Archives public affairs collections.

Press release for the opening of the Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherines Island, Georgia, page 1, circa 1974-1975. Scanned from WCS Archives public affairs collections.

The Wildlife Survival Center assisted the Society’s efforts in the propagation of endangered species. In 1985, the Animal Health Center opened at the Bronx Zoo, featuring modern facilities and equipment and replacing the old Animal Hospital, which had opened in 1916.

From its earliest beginnings, NYZS has been supporting and lobbying for wildlife and ecosystems related conservation issues. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the Society already had an early track record of advocacy and campaigning including: the support for the prohibition of illegal trade in wildlife, fish and plants resulting in the passing of the Lacey Act of 1900; promoting early wildlife conservation treaties such as the Fur Seal Treaty of 1911; the drafting of language in the legislation that prohibited the use of bird plumage in the millinery trade, the 1913 Tariff Act; and long-term campaigning that resulted in the passing of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1930. Many of these activities are attributed to the tireless efforts led by the Society’s first Director for the New York Zoological Park (Bronx Zoo), William Hornaday.

This progress was continued throughout the 1960s-1980s, led by the General Director and President of the Society William Conway and senior staff member and Curator of Reptiles F. Wayne King.

Highlights in Conway and King contributions include their status as U.S. delegates appointed to the conference which established the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), and eventually led to the creation of key legislation to carry CITES provisions out, the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Other highlights include the advisory role of King in his role as Chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Committee of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (AAZPA), now the Association of American Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), in the evaluation of governmental endangered species importation permit applications in the early 1970s, and the foundation and development of the Species Survival Program of the AAZPA by Conway in 1982.

In this same vein, there are several items of note which appear in the selection of records of the former Department of Government Affairs currently being preserved and made available through this year’s NHPRC grant-funded project.

Letter from F. Wayne King, Chairman of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums’ Wildlife Conservation Committee, to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, United States Department of the Interior, 1972. Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2018.

Letter from F. Wayne King, Chairman of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums’ Wildlife Conservation Committee, to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, United States Department of the Interior, 1972. Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2018.

Letter from F. Wayne King, Chairman of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums’ Wildlife Conservation Committee, to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, United States Department of the Interior, 1972. Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2018.

Letter from F. Wayne King, Chairman of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums’ Wildlife Conservation Committee, to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, United States Department of the Interior, 1972. Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2018.

In the early 1970s, written letters provide evidence of the Society’s active support in advocating for wildlife preservation through legislative means. Among these is the letter shown above between King, in his role as Chairman of AAZPA’s Wildlife Conservation Committee, to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, U. S. Department of the Interior, which highlights and advocates for the protection of bird of prey species at risk (owls, hawks, falcons) under existing federal endangered species laws, and amending harmful sports hunting laws.

Surviving correspondence in these files in the early years before and after the Endangered Species Act of 1973 give an insight into important relationships the Society exercised and cultivated with governmental conservation partners closer to home, furthering its mission to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through conservation action.

This post was submitted by WCS’s National Historical Public Records Commission (NHPRC) Project Archivist, Emma Curtis.

 

[If] Mars Attacks!

The Bronx Zoo, like many public facilities, has long had internal protocols for both standard operating procedures and emergency operating procedures [EOPs].  In the early 1970s, the Bronx Zoo’s newly-revitalized Safety Committee conducted a series of revisions of the Zoo’s Emergency Procedures Manual.  The revision process included gathering and codifying types of emergencies, ideal responses, and needed equipment from a wide variety of departments.

Detail of the reply from Herpetology Department Curator Wayne King to a May 1972 request from the Safety Committee for additions to the emergency equipment list. Scanned from WCS Collection 2010/Safety Committee.

Detail of the reply from Herpetology Department Curator Wayne King to a May 1972 request from the Safety Committee for additions to the emergency equipment list. Scanned from WCS Collection 2010/Safety Committee.

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From “Andy’s Animal Alphabet” to “The White Whales of Bristol Bay”…Processing Records from the NYZS Department of Education

As we mentioned back in December, the WCS Archives was recently awarded a major grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to process several important collections.  We’ve now started in on processing the collections, which in addition to the collections from Fairfield Osborn, Lee S. Crandall, and others that we mentioned in our initial announcement, also include records from James A. Oliver, New York Zoological Society press releases spanning most of the 20th Century, and several  hundred illustrations from the Department of Tropical Research.  

In order to complete the work, the Archives has brought on a full-time project archivist, Emma Curtis, to do the bulk of the processing.  Each month Emma will be sharing her progress and latest discoveries in a post here on Wild Things.  We’re as thrilled to have her with us as we are to be working on the grant!

These first few weeks have brought a few notable insights of New York Zoological Society’s rich history as progress begins to ramp up on tackling the thirteen previously unprocessed and under-processed collections selected from WCS Archives holdings for this project.

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First Phase of Our Photo Preservation Project is Complete

Picture1 As we’ve been reporting, the WCS Archives has spent the first half of the year working on a project to preserve our photographic negative collection.  Funded by the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials, the project serves as the first phase in what we intend to be a larger initiative to preserve the entire collection.  During this first phase, we identified and rehoused the collection’s first 10,267 photographic negatives.  This included 2,111 dry plate glass negatives and 8,156 acetate film negatives; of these, all of the glass negatives and 60% of the acetate negatives were 5×7”, and 40% of the acetate negatives were 4×5” or smaller.  Continue reading

Celebrating the NPS Centennial in the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park

Wildlife Conservation Society_24782_Jackson Hole Wildlife Park Drawing by Lloyd Sanford_01 02 53This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and to celebrate this major event, we’re remembering the creation of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park.  In 1948, New York Zoological Society trustee and future NYZS president Laurance S. Rockefeller worked with NYZS and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to establish the park, and in 1962, the park was donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in Grand Teton National Park.

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Preserving Herpetological History… and Beyond

Wildlife Conservation Society_009962_Ball Python Snake_BZ_09 09 25In January 2016, the WCS Archives began a project to preserve WCS’s historical photographic negatives. Since then, another intern and I have been going through these negatives one by one, inspecting them and creating an inventory, noting any information we can glean about their title, date, and physical condition. To ensure their long-term preservation, these negatives are being rehoused and placed into new acid-free envelopes and boxes. The approximately 50,000 negatives in this collection include both acetate film and glass plate negatives, and the oldest images date back to 1899. During this first phase of the project, I have been working with around the first 10,000 negatives in the collection, which represent the earliest of WCS’s photos, ranging from 1899 to the early 1940s.  This project was funded by the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials.

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How the American Bison Became Our National Mammal

Bison at the Bronx Zoo being crated for transport to the Wichita Forest  and Game Preserve (now known as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife  Reserve), October 1907. William Hornaday appears on the left.  WCS Photo Collection

Bison at the Bronx Zoo being crated for transport to the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve (now known as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve), October 1907. William Hornaday appears on the left. WCS Photo Collection

This week, President Obama signed a law making the bison the US’s first national mammal.  To celebrate this momentous event, we’re looking back on the history of protection for the American bison with a blog post over on Medium.  Check it out here:

http://medium.com/@WCS/how-the-american-bison-became-our-national-mammal-eace49467768#.qva9dat56

WCS NDSR Project Post: “{Let’s Get Digital} Recap”

Our NDSR Resident, Genevieve Havemeyer-King, was recently one of the organizers of a free, all-day symposium on digital preservation held under the auspices of the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the Archivists Round Table of New York, and the Brooklyn Historical Society.

As an attendee, I can say that the event was a rousing success!  In her latest post on the NDSR-NY Resident blog, Genevieve showcases the day’s highlights and links to slides and other resources from the presentations and workshops:

http://ndsr.nycdigital.org/lets-get-digital-recap/

Check it out!

The African Plains: “A New Vista to the Wonders of Nature”

wcs-2016-pc-091“A new vista to the wonders of Nature.”  This is how New York Zoological Society President Fairfield Osborn described the brand new African Plains exhibit when it opened at the Bronx Zoo 75 years ago next week, on May 1, 1941.  The exhibit—with its bringing together of several African species, including lions, zebras, nyalas, and many birds, into an expansive savannah landscape—was indeed a new vista for the Zoo.  Whereas previous Bronx Zoo exhibits were conceived around animal orders or families—what Osborn referred to as “man-made classification”—and often indoors—think of the old Lion House, the Monkey House—the African Plains brought together animals based on geography, and it placed them in a naturalistic setting. Continue reading