70 years ago today, the Conservation Foundation was established to support the New York Zoological Society’s ever-expanding conservation program.
CF funded courses in conservation study, educational films and radio programs, publications, and workshops. It also funded scientific research on natural resources, including the work cited by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962).
Although CF was closely affiliated with NYZS, and they jointly sponsored many wildlife conservation projects in the 1950s and 1960s, it was an independent organization from the start. In later years, the Foundation’s work turned more toward human environmental problems associated with development and away from wildlife conservation. In 1965, under the presidency of Russell Train, it moved its offices to Washington, DC and later became an affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund.
Shown is the Conservation Foundation’s logo and statement of purpose from an annual report held in WCS Archives Collection 1029. Processing for this collection was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Access to Historical Records grant program.
The Wildlife Conservation Society Library and Archives is pleased to announce that we have completed a major project to process 15 significant historical collections from our holdings. Among these are three collections related to the Department of Tropical Research, a team of scientists and artists who led pioneering ecological expeditions across tropical regions from the 1910s through the 1960s. Also included are the records of Fairfield Osborn, former President of the New York Zoological Society (as WCS was previously known) and one of the foremost conservationists of the mid-twentieth century.
In addition, the newly processed collections hold records created by Bronx Zoo General Curator Lee S. Crandall; Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium Director James Oliver; NYZS President Robert G. Goelet, Director of Conservation F. Wayne King, and Assistant Secretary Harold C. Palmer; and NYZS’s Ornithology, Education, and Public Affairs Departments.
Together these collections cover pivotal events in the history of WCS that also represent important moments and trends in the cultural and scientific histories of New York City, the US, and the world.
Finding aids for the collections can be found here. Information about accessing our collections is available here.
This project was made possible by funding from the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The WCS Library and Archives is grateful to NHPRC for their support.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On January 20, we celebrated Penguin Awareness Day, and we celebrated by making you aware of Annie, the black-footed penguin being held here by New York Zoological Society President Fairfield Osborn at the dedication ceremony for the new New York Aquarium at Coney Island on June 5, 1957. During the ceremony, Annie did the honors and (prompted by the promise of a tasty fish) cut the ribbon with his beak. And you read that right—originally thought to be a female penguin, Annie turned out to be male.
Happy New Year! 2018 is the Year of the Dog, and here are two American Eskimo Dogs at the Bronx Zoo in 1902. One of the dogs, Bridge, accompanied Arctic explorer Robert Peary on an expedition to the northernmost point on land in Greenland. After his grueling work to complete the trip, Bridge was given to the zoo, where, according to the 1907 book Wild-Animal Celebrities, he lived “in ease and comfort and seem[ed] to enjoy it in the full.” He was also given a female companion, pictured here with him.
On Groundhog Day in 1928, the Bronx Zoo gathered what the New York Times called a “caucus of honorable groundhogs” to take part in the annual weather prediction tradition. The gathering of groundhogs ultimately saw their shadow that morning and declared more winter for New York City, and a broadcast with this result was sent out by the zoo’s woodchuck curator John Toomey. Above is one of the members of the Bronx Zoo Groundhog Day caucus seeing his shadow.
Beginning in the late 1950s, WCS expanded its wildlife conservation efforts into Africa, with a particular interest in the establishment and management of national parks. The WCS Archives’ Fairfield Osborn collection includes letters and other documents related to this work, including these pamphlets for African national parks, produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was in Albert National Park (today Virunga National Park) in 1959 and 1960 that field biologist George Schaller, with WCS funding, conducted his pioneering studies into the ecology and behavior of mountain gorillas. WCS Archives Collection 1029. Collection processing made possible through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission Access to Historical Records grant program.