Document discovery

A 50-year-old diary has been unearthed at the zoo – giving keepers an insight into the lives of their predecessors and the animals in their care.

The 1969 keepers’ diary, full of beautifully handwritten records about giraffes, gazelles and other animals on the ungulates section, has now been added to the zoo archives.

It was found stashed behind a cabinet when the former mongoose and porcupine enclosure was taken down to make way for the new home for our binturong pair, Ellie and Elliot last spring and has since been dried out and studied by staff.

The content of the Boots-branded book is similar to what current keepers log today, taking note of breeding behaviour, feeding habits and medical records.

But today our keepers transfer this information to computers which is then passed on to our Registrar and Research Co-ordinator Dr David Beeston, who uploads the details to ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System).

Assistant Curator Jay Haywood, pictured, said: “It’s been very interesting to see how zoo keepers used to keep their records in the days before computers would have been used here.

“It was particularly fascinating to me as the majority of the entries were made by the former head of section Eileen Skinner, who retired shortly after I joined the zoo in 1999.

“All surviving keeping records since the zoo opened in 1937 are kept in our archives so this document has filled a gap in our history and will be wonderful to look back on for years to come.”

Today our ungulates section is much larger including giraffes, meerkats, red pandas, Barbary sheep, giant anteaters, tortoises, Brazilian tapirs, Asiatic short-clawed otters, binturongs, capybara, Bennetts wallabies, Parma wallabies, peccaries, reindeer and all the creatures in the Reptile House.