The Animal Magic Zoo


The Animal Magic Zoo

Terry Nutkins celebrates the 175th anniversary of Bristol Zoo, examining how the focus of the modern zoo has shifted from amusement and entertainment to education and conservation.


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Transcript


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I was lucky enough to spend some magical moment at Bristol Zoo.

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Incredibly, Brazil is celebrating its 175th birthday this year. -- of

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her zeal. On this programme, we will take you of a whistle-stop

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tour. From Alfred the gorilla, who became a wartime symbol of

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resistance. He had a huge presence. A wonderful presence. To Dotty the

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Lemur, who captured the heart of a film star. I have a species of

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lemur named after me. And we will explore how changing attitudes have

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 44 seconds

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shifted the focus of the suit from Bristol Zoological Gardens is the

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5th oldest zoo in the world. The original list of shareholders

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reveals the important local shareholders. The most significant

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Bristow the end of all, Isambard Kingdom Brunell. Bristol Zoo really

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aimed itself and providing the Zoological Society for the rich and

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educated middle classes of Bristol. In the early days, they did manage

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to obtain some exotic creatures. But an elephant was really

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something. When Zebi was presented by V Maharajah of Mysore, that must

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have been a massive thing for this -- for the zoo. And yet the zoo was

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suffering financially so it began to rely heavily on added

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attractions. These would involve rolling, ice skating, things that

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may seem as if they fit with in our gardens. This zoo was struggling to

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fit with its original ethos. And they visit a number rose, it still

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failed to pay off its debts so it put on shows until the end of the

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1920s. During that time, 16-year- old Reginald Greed started work

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there as an office boy. My father always used to say it was lovely to

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participate in the fairgrounds and Despite the lovely shows, the

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gardens at that time were still a place for the middle classes to

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visit. This was only a popular show you -- zoo for working-class people

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and there weren't even bank holidays and people worked six days

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a week, so that is part of the reason the zoo struggled. So one of

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the zoo's leading committee members, Richard Clarke, declared it must go

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back to its roots and concentrate on being a zoo. Work began on a new

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aquarium, which opened in 1927. And with the extra admission charge, it

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quickly paid for itself and brought in a much needed funds. The next

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major exhibit that Clarke came up with was at the Monkey Temple.

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Embracing a zoo her theory at the time that animals should see more

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outdoors. One little girl who loved the Monkey Temple was Margaret

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Woodland. We used to sit on the wall and they were running down.

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They could not get out because the walls were very high, but they

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would be carrying their babies and they used to get up to some real

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tricks. But maybe there would be a way over that high wall. Don Packam,

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who eventually became the head keeper, recalls a time when a

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prankster put a ladder in the Monkey Temple and all the

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inhabitants escaped. There had been 36 when I escapes -- when I left

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the previous night. There was nothing there. An elderly lady in

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Clifton, who used to take a bath every Sunday afternoon, was lying

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in the bath enjoying herself and looked up at the cupboard, heard a

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movement and then a monkey looked over the top of the cupboard

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because it had got into the bathroom. I was told that she never

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took a bath on a Sunday afternoon after that! It was a horrifying

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experience for her. In 1930, the zoo's most famous resident, Alfred,

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arrived. He was immediately a staff. The only go relay in Europe at the

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time. In those days, people were just fascinated. Because you were

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only eight feet away, you could smell it. Male gorillas have a

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wonderful smile about them. He had the most beautiful brown eyes. You

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went round to the gates and the first thing you saw was the gorilla

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and it just had a huge presence. A Alfred was, by all accounts, quite

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a character. My mum used to prepare her best hat and when we got to the

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zoo, we had to go and visit Alfred. She decided to get a little bit

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closer and he stood up and did an enormous wee all over her hat. It

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was dripping off her hat! She went absolutely mad. She grabbed me by

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the hands and said, ", on, I have had enough of him". And then we

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walked away. Towards the end of the 1930s, with 250 animal species, the

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zoo was still gaining popularity. When Hitler started to bomb our

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major cities, Bristol and Bristol's restarted to brace themselves. Dark

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times lay ahead. -- of Bristol Zoo started to brace themselves. Alfred

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is our mascot. Mass got? I will give you mascot! Where is my

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At the onset of war, the zoo struggled to find adequate food for

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many of its animals. Fish, for instance, were in very short supply.

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Initially, in desperation, at the zoo cried horsemeat dipped in cod

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liver oil, which, unfortunately he had the effect of killing the seals,

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sea-lions and penguins quite rapidly. As the bombs dropped in

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the centre of Bristol, the zoo was pretty much unscathed. At the

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Bristol Aeroplane Company was not so lucky. Its site in Feltham was

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severely damaged. The drawing office staff work relocated to the

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zoo pavilion. This man remembers some happy hours spent in the

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gardens, especially with Rosie the elephant. People knew about Rosie.

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The cigarette smokers would light up a cigarette and blow it right

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into her trunk. She would take it and then step back and then she

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would trample on her front feet and swing her trunk and blow it up in

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the air. I was actually a pipe smoker. Rosie took her up drunk on

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the rail and I blew into led to an she stood back and started swinging

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her trunk. And then up came her trunk and it went straight from her

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face and she blew it all out. Plus a little bit of saliva! She had her

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revenge! She was so beautiful. She was absolutely lovely and to climb

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up and get into that the seat and then, suddenly, you work rolling

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along. Even now, at my age, I still remember it. Alfred, meanwhile,

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became world famous. A symbol of resistance. But sadly, the after-

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effects of war would haste and Alfred's death. He succumbed to

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tuberculosis in 1948 - it is thought through in -- eating

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infected meat. I learned of his death on the front page of the

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newspaper and I ran all the way down to the zoo and could not

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believe it. A lot of children at wed that night. Rosie kept going,

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but one hot summer's a day, disaster was to strike. She

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collapsed, with 10 children on her back. That was quite an occasion

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and from that time, 1947, they reduced the number of rides because

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they thought it was too many. staff were beginning to rethink

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some of their practices, but Bristol was still very much a

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Victorian zoo. Many of the enclosures were still pitifully

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small and bare. The big cat and closure meant an enclosure for big

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cats. They were appalling. The animal could not run aground. They

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were 20 ft long by 15 feet. All I can think his embarrassment that

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the zoo ever kept animals like that. But after the war, people needed an

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escape from their own tough lives, so visible went into the black for

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the first time and visitors were no longer confined to the money's

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classes. -- the zoo went into the black. What was expensive becomes

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less expensive over the decades. We see the emancipation of the working

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classes through Bristol Zoo. didn't go away on holidays, so a

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visit to the zoo was very special. There was a big build-up for it. It

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was absolutely beautiful. A another youngster who could not wait to get

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to the zoo was one of Jeffrey's classmates, a lively young chap

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named John. I used to love going to the zoo. When I was at Lifton, we

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would walk out of the college, cross the road into the zoo, and

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one of the boys in my house's father ran the zoo. I used to love

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the little lemur. As a result of that, I did a programme about

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lemurs and I now have a lemur named after me, with the name of Avacki

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Cleesei, or Cleese's or woolly lemur. The 60s were a time of

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rebirth for Bristol Zoo. Fame was on the horizon with television

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programmes like The Politics Show, and weird and wonderful animals

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like this okapi were imported into the zoo. You could say it was at

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the height of its popularity. are not paying the enough for this,

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sweetie! Where is my agent? There is nothing like Bristol. It is all

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Bristol fashion. Even before The Politics Show, V zoo and Geoffrey's

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father had already achieved fame with the BBC series of News From

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The Zoos. The cameras were there to capture some very special moment. -

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- even before Animal Magic. Many viewers will be wanting to see how

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Sebastiaan the polar bear has been getting on. A Sebastien was special

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- not just because he was only the second polar bear to be born in

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this country, but also because of the pioneering breeding methods.

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got the idea of having a heated clubbing dens for the polar bear.

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Somebody has measured the temperature within it one of the

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clubbing dens in the wild, and it is quite high. By providing be

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tutor, that was the very first year but we successfully bred polar

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bears. It was post-war baby boom of time - and not just for humans.

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Roger the rhinoceros was the first black rhinoceros to be born in this

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country. And then there were baby giraffes, lion cubs, and not to

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mention new editions literally shipped in from a foreign climes.

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It was a very competitive time. We had bred penguins and rhinos, but

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the okapi was special. Only the very, very big zoos had it. You had

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to be a lead to get it. You had to be highly thought of. -- had to be

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eaten. We had to be installed a camera within the okapi Enclosure.

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We could make sure that everything And everything was well, she was

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fine and we had no problems at all. Despite its small size, Bristol Zoo

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really was leading the field. It opened the world's first nocturnal

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house, where day and night were reversed. In the nocturnal house

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But this was also the end of one era. After Rosie died in 1961 there

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were no more elephant rides. But she was replaced by Wendy and

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Christina - two very big characters! We used to take them

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out every day for a walk. We would take them, usually sticking to more

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less the same route. People got used to them coming round and quite

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often they would pop out with a bit of a titbit for them. As a result

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of that, if the people happened to be away or did not come out the

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elephants were difficult to move from that particular house. Bristol

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Zoo's current senior curator of animals John Partridge was later to

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work with the two elephants. He remembers Christina being just a

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little bit naughty. She was very good at recognising people she did

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not like. There was one particular contractor who would come into the

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zoo from time to time. We never discovered what he did, or maybe he

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never did anything, but she did not like him. She would pick him out

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from the crowd, she would find a stone and she would throw stones at

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him. Invariably she would hit him Christina and Wendy became the

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stars of the brand new children's show Animal Magic. It burst onto TV

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I grew up watching Animal Magic, watching Johnny Morris, utterly my

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era. Simon Garrett, now head of learning, was inspired by Johnny

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Morris. What I like is a grape perhaps. A grape perhaps? Yeah, a

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perhaps grape. I remember walking past one of the lake islands one

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day and there's Dotty the ring- tailed lemur. I stopped dead in my

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tracks and I suddenly thought, I'm working in the place that I saw so

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much of growing up through Animal Magic. Then I'm a little old man of

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the woods, ain't I? Yes, Henry, a little old man of the woods but

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there's no need to behave so much like one all of the time. All right

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then, I'll be a little old keeper of the woods!

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Most people thought that Johnny was actually a keeper in Bristol Zoo.

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And indeed he wore a Bristol Zoo uniform. I thought he was the

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keeper, wasn't he? As a kid you just thought he was the keeper,

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yeah. Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park was a huge fanand maybe

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it showed in his oscar-winning film Creature Comforts. Well looked

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after, very well looked after. I am not worried about anything. The way

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Johnny Morris did those funny voices for the animals, I guess

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that was the start of it, really. I was probably unconsciously very

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inspired by that, really. It really put Bristol Zoo on the map because

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he would often say that he was going to Bristol Zoo. I didn't know

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where Bristol was but I always wanted to go there. I always

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thought it must be a really special zoo. Do you mind if I come and sit

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And it was special. The Animal Magic cameras were there just after

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the birth of the first baby gorilla born in a British zoo. Don't you

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think you'd better support your baby's head, Delilah?

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Look, if you're so blinking clever you look after him, go on.

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alright, but only for a moment, Delilah. I say, he's getting quite

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Boosted by being on the nations TV screens every week, Bristol Zoo was

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more popular than ever before. And then the Severn Bridge opened in

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1967 bringing coach loads of I can remember the day when we had

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over 35,000 people there. That is more than the zoo gets in a month

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Zoos really were going through a bit of a learning curve in the

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1970s. The public were not content with just looking at the animals,

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they wanted to know about conservation, endangered species,

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like these Livingstone fruit bats here. The zoos had to take public

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opinion on board but it was not an easy ride. You can say that again!

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Look, can I get down now? My wings I thought, you know, some of the

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monkeys, they were, they looked miserable because they were in the

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cage. And basically that was it. They were on show and they were fed

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well, they were clean, but it was not really their basic natural

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environments. It was an old Victorian zoo, it was the 5th and

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still is the 5th oldest zoo in the world. Oldest zoo outside a capital

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city. It was beginning to show still those old Victorian bars and

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Big changes were ahead. In 1974 when Reg Greed died his son

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Geoffrey took over as director of the zoo. He had ideas thinking to

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the future that there would no longer be in Clifton, many of the

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larger animals that we had. That was difficult at that time to

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comprehend that. Because the large animals were the zoo, they were so

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much part of the zoo. And Geoffrey Greed embarked on a huge revamp of

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the zoo with a building programme which would continue over 30 years.

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He actually said, a chunk of the zoo is going to be a building site

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but when it is finished it is going to be good, it is going to be very

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good. He had the courage and the vision to do that.

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But the changes weren't fast enough for some and in the mid-eighties an

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anti-zoo movement started grabbing headlines. Bristol Zoo came under

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fire when it rescued a polar bear with mental health problems from a

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Unfortunately, when people saw the bear continually pacing, Bristol

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zoo got the blame for his condition. It was so disheartening to...mainly

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to the keepers who looked after the animal, to all the staff there,

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because we had worked so hard on giving options to the bear, giving

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something to take his mind off the pacing and over a long period of

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time, the bear was getting better and better. While the zoo hadn't

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caused the bear's mental condition, the controversy did raise questions

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about their enclosure. I did directly reference that polar bear

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pit at the time, that compound. It was a horrible bar there of dirty

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water. And a painted concrete environment that in a token way

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represented the snow, I guess. It probably wasn't that convincing to

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the polar bears. My favourite food, I am afraid to say, is steak.

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you like lions as well, then? Do you like steaks and chips with

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lions with it? Not with lions, Andrew, I do not like lion steak, I

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prefer the ordinary steak. I got quite a passionate response from

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animal rights people. People coming up to me and shaking

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my hand in America, saying thank you, thank you for what you're

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doing for animals everywhere. You're stuck in for some reason,

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like I am stuck in today. Then yes, you get bored and fed up looking at

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the same four walls. It wasn't trying to change anything,

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really. I was purely trying to entertain.

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When the polar bears eventually died, there would be no more bears

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in Clifton. We were not really afraid to

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recognise the problem, acknowledge it and do something positive to

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make a change. As the new millennium dawned,

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Bristol Zoo had to ensure its survival into the new century. It

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started building new natural enclosures for its animals. Like

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this seal and penguin enclosure here. Not only that, they moved

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into ground-breaking projects, veterinary surgery, breeding and

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conservation work out there in the wild.

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Yes, Terry, it's lovely here. Give With this kind of enclosure the

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public can get up close and personal with the animals.

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Bristol's current director, Bryan Carroll, it's definitely the way

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forward. Rather than having the visitors in

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a way outside of the enclosure looking in, we are trying more and

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more to immerse the visitor in the environment of the animal.

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And more importantly, it's better for the animals. Something the

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zoo's very first on-site vet, Sharon Redrobe, heartily approved

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You cannot say you are about conservation and then keep animals

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in matchboxes. That is not what Bristol does. That is what they

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have been doing for the last few years, keeping species that can be

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kept on a smaller site very well. Sticking to those ideals, when

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Wendy the elephant had to be put down it heralded the end of keeping

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most big species here. The decision had been made for some time that

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Wendy would be the last elephant to be held in Clifton Gardens. And the

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right decision I am sure but never the less quite a difficult one and

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the end of another iconic species that no more will be seen in

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Clifton. I was determind to be with her right at the end and I was. I

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am a very quiet and private person, so I did what I felt I had to do

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The few larger species Bristol now holds are there because they're

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Like these recently born Asian lions, only around 400 left in the

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And then, of course, there's the gorillas. From Alfred's day onwards,

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the zoo's been great at keeping and breeding them. When one of the

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females, Romina, was refusing to mate, the team felt that cateracts

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in her eyes could be to blame. had a sneaky suspicion that maybe

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the not mating was partly because she could not see who was there.

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And so Bristol scored another world first as Romina underwent surgery

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to repair her eyesight. The results were outstanding. Romina had been

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bullied by another gorilla - but not now. Salome had had a habit of

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throwing fruit at her head. From a distance. And of course Romina did

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not know where the fruit was coming from. The minute we opened the gate

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and Romina walked through because she could see quite clearly for the

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first time in 21 years, Salome ran up to her with an apple, paused,

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they looked at each other and Salome slunk off and never did it

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again. Within three months she was From the biggest to the tiniest.

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Bristol Zoo is helping conserve animals and even bring back extinct

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species. We are trying to raise the funds for reintroduction, which

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sounds ridiculous, but actually it is a very difficult thing to do and

0:26:010:26:07

it is an incredibly important thing to do. It is alarming as you know

0:26:070:26:11

how the species are getting wiped out and in many cases now it is

0:26:110:26:14

because their habitat is being destroyed. If we do not bring them

0:26:140:26:17

somewhere safe and have them bred there, these species could get

0:26:170:26:24

wiped out. The zoo is planning a new

0:26:240:26:28

conservation park near to Bristol. Here in Clifton, much of the focus

0:26:280:26:36

is on education. If we can get a 300 to 500 people on the lawn

0:26:360:26:38

watching macaws flying around over their heads, you can see the

0:26:380:26:42

excitement in people, you can hear the intake of breath as the macaw

0:26:420:26:48

flies just over their heads. At the same time, the commentary

0:26:480:26:51

that goes with that is about the destruction of the forest when the

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calls come from. He was dropping in those key messages about what

0:26:580:27:06

Bristol zoo has changed dramatically throughout its history

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but for many it's as magical today as it was for those very first

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visitors 175 years ago. You cannot wait to get to the next

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thing and when you are told, that is it, you have seen everything,

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you want to go round again and see it all again.

0:27:260:27:30

It is the only time that human beings put themselves out for the

0:27:300:27:32

sake of animals and there is something glorious about it because

0:27:320:27:42
0:27:420:27:43

it is kind of pointless and yet it There is a huge love and affection

0:27:430:27:51

Terry Nutkins celebrates the 175th anniversary of Bristol Zoo. In this whistle-stop tour through the zoo's fascinating history, Terry reflects on his time presenting the BBC TV series 'Animal Magic' with Johnny Morris. The programme gave voices to the animals, turning Dotty the ringtailed lemur into a household name.

Over the years, the zoo has been home to some notable residents including Alfred the gorilla who became a wartime symbol of resistance, and Rosie the elephant who used to give rides to children.

Contributors to the programme include the Hollywood actor John Cleese who went to school nearby and Creature Comforts creator Nick Park who drew inspiration from the polar bears.

The programme examines how the role of the zoo has evolved over the decades to reflect changing public attitudes. From an initial focus on amusement and entertainment, the modern zoo places more importance on education and conservation.


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