Author Archives: Sana Masood

[Instagram] Elephant Keys

Wildlife Conservation Society Archives. Collection 2016.

The elephant keys unlocked “Talking Storybooks,” which were installed in zoos, including the Bronx Zoo, in the 1950s and 1960s. Once unlocked with elephant keys, the Talking Storybooks played recorded stories about animals found around the zoo. Does anyone still have theirs?

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Happy 25th Re(Birthday) Prospect Park Zoo!

Opening Day Ceremony program. WCS Archives Collection 2016

On October 5, 1993, Prospect Park Zoo reopened under the management of WCS. The renovation of the Prospect Park Zoo was the final component in WCS’s City Zoos Project, following the revitalization and reopening of the Central Park and Queens Zoos in 1988 and 1992.

Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden and Howard Phipps Jr reopening the Prospect Park Zoo, October 5, 1993. WCS Photo Collection

The Prospect Park Zoo was officially opened by then Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden throwing the inaugural fish to the sea lions while Society Chairman Howard Phipps Jr., Parks Commissioner Betsy Gotbaum, and the crowd looked on.

The original Prospect Park Zoo started in the late 1800s as a menagerie and formally opened as Prospect Park Zoo, under New York City management, in 1935. After management transferred to WCS in the 1980s, renovation of the park began in August 1989. Architectural elements and the original layout were preserved while the exhibits were replaced with natural habitats for the animals. Larger animals were moved to the bigger zoos while small animals remained.

Howard Phipps Jr., Howard Golden, and children at Prospect Park reopening, October 5, 1993. WCS Photo Collection

The new zoo’s design placed an emphasis on educating children about wildlife conservation, with the WCS 1994 annual report referring to it as a “conservation-oriented children’s wildlife center in Brooklyn.”

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Charles Haskins Townsend’s 159th Birthday!

Front cover of album

“N. end sea elephant rookery”

“Old male. Proboscis drawn up. Neck sore from fighting.”

Townsend’s writing on inside front cover

Charles Haskins Townsend was born on this date in 1859. Townsend served as the Director of the New York Aquarium at Battery Park from 1902 to 1937, and he was a leading voice for the protection of fur seals. This album features photos Townsend took of elephant seals on Guadalupe Island in March 1911 during an expedition on the U.S.S. Albatross. Fur seals later found by researchers on Guadalupe Island in the 1920s were aptly named Guadalupe Fur Seals, but their scientific name was made in honor of Townsend, Arctocephalus townsendi.

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Princeton the Malayan Tiger [Instagram]

© Wildlife Conservation Society

Princeton the tiger is shown here in a photo taken 114 years ago this month. Princeton was an early inhabitant of the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House, which opened in 1903. This photo is part of our historical negatives collection with images dating back to the opening of the Bronx Zoo in 1899.

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Jackson Hole Wildlife Park 70th Anniversary [Instagram]

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park—which NYZS was active in developing—was formally dedicated and opened to the public 70 years ago yesterday, July 19. Also in 1948, NYZS founded the Jackson Hole Biological Research Station. The station rapidly developed into the focal point for studies on the flora and fauna of the Rocky Mountains, many of which had application to the future management of Grand Teton National Park. In 1953, NYZS began jointly operating the station with the University of Wyoming, an arrangement that continued through 1975.

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Learn About Butterflies Day [Instagram]

© Wildlife Conservation Society

In addition to being Pi Day, today is also Learn About Butterflies Day! Learn about the life cycle of the butterfly from this drawing by the Department of Tropical Research done at their research station in Simla, Trinidad. When this was drawn on February 18, 1951, the scientific name of the butterfly depicted was “Telegonus alardus,” and today it is known as “Astraptes alardus,” the Frosted Flasher.

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Cat Day in Japan [Instagram]

It’s Cat Day in Japan! To celebrate, here are some big cats from a guide book for the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, circa the 1930s. The guidebook is held in the WCS Archives Zoo History collection.

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New York Aquarium at Castle Clinton [Instagram]

© Wildlife Conservation Society

In December 1896, the New York Aquarium opened in Castle Clinton at Battery Park. Here’s the Aquarium’s interior in 1905, three years after WCS took over its management from New York City. In 1941, the Aquarium was closed by NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to accommodate plans for a never-built bridge between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. After a temporary relocation to the Lion House at the Bronx Zoo, the Aquarium reopened in 1957 in its current location at Coney Island.

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Townsend’s Tortoises

© Wildlife Conservation Society

We’ll forgive you for not recognizing them, but pictured above are a couple stars of tortoise conservation history. During the 1920s, New York Aquarium Director Charles Townsend became concerned about the declining populations of Galápagos tortoises. He warned of their impending extinction in a 1924 article published in the New York Zoological Society Bulletin. Townsend’s original research had led him to conclude that the tortoise had already disappeared from some of the Galápagos Islands, and he advocated for the animal’s preservation. In 1928, Townsend led a New York Zoological Society expedition to the Galápagos Islands. During this expedition, he collected 182 tortoises. With the goal of establishing captive breeding programs in order to thwart their potential extinction, he distributed these tortoises to zoos and aquariums around the world – with 23 coming to the Bronx Zoo, including the two pictured here.

Read more about Townsend’s tortoises at Wild View.

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