My son is fascinated by animals and wildlife so over recent years we’ve visited a lot of zoos, and this week we visited Chester Zoo for the first time. It was an fascinating experience, Ned finally got to see an Aye-Aye (which has long been one of his favourite animals) and we got our money’s worth spending a total of six hours there and must have looked at more or less every animal and enclosure. I enjoyed exploring the natural history side of the zoo- I’ve been reading a lot about early naturalists like Alfred Russell Wallace recently, but what really started to catch my eye was the design of the animal enclosures and exhibits; I became increasingly intrigued about certain aspects of zoo design as we made our way round the site.
So far, so good – this kind of display is fairly typical of modern zoos. What particularly caught my eye at Chester was the use of human architecture and objects in and around the enclosures. This seems to take two forms. First, a number of displays, such as the large tropical house and the “Land of the Jaguars” included pastiche ancient monuments (fake Mesoamerican sculpture; faux temple architecture etc). These are important in one sense as they presence the fact that even in rainforest and jungle, animals in the wild don’t live hermetically sealed existences apart and distinct from human society What is problematic though is that whilst picturesque, the use of monuments avoids placing modern indigenous societies in the landscapes alongside the animals, but instead mobilises images of past, perhaps extinct, societies, writing out the contemporary populations of these landscapes. I do find this erasure of the modern peoples problematic – even if unintentional – and does tie into some classic Orientalist discourses that see modern indigenous peoples as often inauthentic or diluted versions of ‘purer’ earlier populations.
Interestingly, according to the architect, Dan Pearlman, it embedded a narrative that a team of conservationists has left remains of their visit – such as equipment, notebooks etc – allowing visitors to ‘become part of the research team’ whilst on their visit. Again, there was a danger of this kind of narrative falling into a ‘white saviour’ trap – but underpinning this more importantly was an interesting next step in presenting wildlife. Having moved from a taxonomic model to an ecological model – the presencing of contemporary humans in zoo exhibits is arguably linked to a conservation model, that emphasises the threats to natural environment. It represents an existential transition in the display of animals which demonstrates the contingent and dynamic nature of ecosystems rather than assuming that they are timeless and static. Interestingly, I’ve noticed this approach used elsewhere- when I visited the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans last year, one of their tanks, showing maritime life in the Gulf of Mexico, was structured around the 5m high legs of an off-shore drilling rig – this was constructed in 1990 with funding from a consortium of oil companies who invested in drilling in the nearby Gulf. The idea was to show that nature and oil extraction could live happily side by side- ironically since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spillage in the gulf, the display is more likely to evoke reminders of the precise opposite.
Anon. Engineering the Penguin Pool at London Zoo
Hello Everybody,My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of $250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius, call/whats-App Contact Number +918929509036 via email:(firstname.lastname@example.org) Thank you.
Leave a comment