BOOK REVIEWS



LA GIUNGLA DI VILLA BORGHESE: I CENTO ANNI DEL GIARDINO ZOOLOGICO DI ROMA [慣he jungle of Villa Borghese: a hundred years of Rome Zoo抅 by Spartaco Gippoliti. Available from Edizioni Belvedere, 04100 Latina, Italy (www.edizionibelvedere.it). 206 pp., 64 b/w and 30 colour photos. ISBN 978𤾊89504253. #22.00.

Spartaco Gippoliti抯 book fills a huge gap in the history of European zoos, describing the vicissitudes of the Giardino Zoologico in Rome from its creation by Carl Hagenbeck in 190910 to the privatisation and change of name in 1998. Next year (2011) will mark the centenary of the zoo and hopefully there will be other initiatives to celebrate the occasion. But this book is the first one dealing mainly with zoological issues and explaining the history of what was once a major European institution. Nowadays its history is so severely neglected that most influential references cite, on the authority of Jean Delacour, a closure (and re-opening in 1935) that never took place! Yet Rome Zoo抯 beginnings were clearly ambitious. Designed by the Carl Hagenbeck team (Heinrich Hagenbeck, Lehmann, Hirsch, Eggenschwiler), it was directed by a German zoologist, Theodor Knottnerus-Meyer, who in 1925 was to set down his observations on animal behaviour in a book that was soon translated into German and English. Gippoliti抯 book makes clear that the cultural and educational goals of the institution were established from the beginning under the presidency of the ornithologist Francesco Chigi. For this reason, after the bankruptcy of the Zoological Society, the Municipality of Rome assumed full responsibility for the zoological garden in 1917, rather than allowing its transformation to a leisure park.

The fascist years are examined in great detail: the Giardino Zoologico received great attention from Mussolini as a way of publicising the power of the regime, especially with reference to its overseas territories. In 1932 the Zoological Museum was created, and later the Colonial Museum was transferred into the zoo, while in 1935 the area of the zoo increased from 11 to 16 hectares. After the war, the biologist and later director Ermanno Bronzini directed his efforts towards not only the rebuilding of the collection, but also the development of an overall cultural mission for the zoo, including a strong biological research component. All this is amply discussed in the book, together with the failure to create a large 慳cclimation park, on the model of Whipsnade, first conceived in the 1940s.

After the Olympic Games of 1960, the zoo began to suffer a lack of independence from the political power. After 1982 the direction was given to municipal managers, a decision that was at the root of a cultural crisis in the institution at a time when animal rights groups were strongly campaigning for the closure of the country抯 urban zoos. In 1998 the Municipality decided to privatise the zoo and change its name to 態ioparco; this latter period is only sketchily treated in the book.

Each chapter has a brief English summary. There is also a good though certainly not exhaustive photographic section. Here the focus is on rare species or famous characters: there is a picture of one of the two Nubian wild asses that reached Rome from Eritrea between 1924 and 1934, of the Fezzan hyrax, of the first male bongo reaching a zoo in 1934, the Philippine eagle and so on. Among the minor defects of the book, I feel, is the absence of any maps showing the development of the zoo over the years. The bibliography at the end of the book represents a useful source of additional information on the history of Rome Zoo and its scientific activities

Pierluigi Finotello,
Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica Lab di Zoologia,
Universit di Firenze, Italy


慔OHES TIER DIE GESCHICHTE DER ERSTEN GIRAFFE IN SCH諲BRUNN [慣all animal the story of the first giraffe at Sch鰊brunn抅 by Christa Riedl-Dorn. Braum黮ler, Vienna, 2008. 182 pp. + 8 pp. of colour illustrations, paperback. ISBN 978𣛭0031633. #24.90.
WILDNIS ZOO: IMPRESSIONEN AUS SCH諲BRUNN. [慦ilderness Zoo: impressions from Sch鰊brunn抅 by Daniel Zupanc and Regina Pfisterm黮ler. KIKO Verlag, Vienna, 2008. 240 pp., numerous colour photos, oblong format, hardbound. ISBN 978𣛯02644008. #39.80.

During 2008 two interesting books have been published about Tiergarten Sch鰊brunn in Vienna. Hohes Tier is the fourth of a series which is unique in the zoo world in dealing only with the history of one animal collection, the Menagerie Sch鰊brunn, today Tiergarten Sch鰊brunn.

The third book in this series, Tiere unterwegs [see IZN 55 (1), 3031] had a chapter about the first giraffe at Vienna written by Gabriele Mauthe. Anyone who thought that with this paper the story of the first giraffe was exhausted, will be set right by the new book. Prof. Christa Riedl-Dorn is director of the department of archive and history of science at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. In Hohes Tier she gives much more insight into the life of Vienna抯 first giraffe than was published before. She searched in the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv of Vienna and found a lot of previously unpublished documents on the transport, care and keeping of the giraffe.

Christa Riedl-Dorn begins with a short chapter about the biology of the giraffe family and a longer one about the cultural history of giraffes, starting with the mesolithic pictures of giraffes in Africa and leading to the first giraffes in the zoos of Paris and London. Following this background, she tells in detail the story of the Sch鰊brunn giraffe. The animal was a gift from Mehmed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, to Emperor Francis I of Austria. In 1826 the first information about the gift reached Austria, and the animal was brought to Vienna in 1828. On 17 March 1828, Guiseppe Acerbi, consul-general of Egypt, wrote to Vienna to say that the giraffe a male instead of the female he had first selected for the menagerie would be shipped 憈omorrow or the day after tomorrow. But things did not happen as easily as he expected. On 20 March he brought the Egyptian keeper Hagi Aly Scibari, together with an interpreter, to the consular office to sign the contract with the keeper. Besides the salary and other arrangements, it was important to provide for Scibari抯 return to Egypt. The brig Austria left Alexandria on 25 March and arrived in Venice where Josef Aman from Sch鰊brunn was waiting as a second keeper on 27 April. Near Venice, on the island of Poveglia, a building was erected for the giraffe, and here he lived in quarantine until 7 June.

Christa Riedl-Dorn illustrates the efforts and circumstances of the keeping and transport of the giraffe with many documents and letters of high officials. These documents give a good impression of the difficulties of the organization of the transport, until the giraffe arrived at Laxenburg on 6 August 1828 and a day later at Sch鰊brunn, where a new stable was erected for the rare and precious animal. A chapter gives details of the building of the giraffe stable, with a ground plan and drawings. Despite the recorded care and medical treatment, the giraffe survived for only ten months. The well-documented autopsy showed that the cause of his death was not any mistakes by the keepers or veterinarians, but fractures of both legs which the animal sustained in Egypt before he was given into the care of the Austrians.

慓iraffe mania swept Vienna as it did the other cities which acquired these animals in the early 19th century. Christa Riedl-Dorn describes this mania, which is in some ways typical of the society of the time. The last chapter is an overview of the other giraffes later kept at Sch鰊brunn. The appendices contain interesting transcriptions and translations of original documents, for example the diary of the journey.

This book is of interest not only in recording the life of a special animal but much more in helping readers to understand the social, technical and bureaucratic circumstances which were important for zoos during the first half of the 19th century, and maybe later. We must thank Christa Riedl-Dorn for her extensive work and the editors and the publishers for including it in the series.

Totally different is Wildnis Zoo, which is a coffee-table book with numerous photos of Sch鰊brunn and especially of its animals. The photographer Daniel Zupanc took pictures over a year, and a selection of them are published in the book issued by his own newly-founded publishing house. Regina Pfisterm黮ler, curator at Sch鰊brunn, wrote the short chapters complementing the book. As the subtitle indicates, the authors wanted to show the fascination of the zoo and its animals, so they present a collection of fine pictures to relax and reminiscence over. Chapters are devoted not only to the Tiergarten but also to the 慸esert house (a joint project of the zoo and the palace) and the gardens. (Astonishingly, more pictures of plants are shown from the desert house than from the rainforest house.) Most of the pictures show animals in detail: many could have been taken anywhere, but readers who know Sch鰊brunn will recognize at least some of them. And of course there are photos of Fu Long, the young giant panda born at Sch鰊brunn, and of the koalas, the Indian rhinos, the Japanese serows and other rare animals. What some may miss is a list of the plants and animals for those who want to see a special favourite. Wildnis Zoo is a good book for all who like excellent pictures of animals and to a lesser extent plants. This fine souvenir of Sch鰊brunn will encourage readers to visit Tiergarten Sch鰊brunn again, just to have another look at the animals.

Harro Strehlow