Z is for Zoo

And finally, Z is for Zoo! And who is the King of the beasts? Panthera leo melanochaita, that’s who! More commonly known as the East African Lion, this is the species you might have seen in footage of Kenya’s famous Masai Mara, though is found distributed across Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Back in 1934 the taxonomy of Lion’s was less well understood, which often saw subspecies classification attributed purely on where specimens were discovered.

And what has this to do with Suffolk? Well in 1934 the East Anglian Daily Times featured an article on the arrival of Nero, an Abyssinian Lion (also known as Ethiopian) at the new Butlin’s Amusement Park. Nero would be joined by three other lions shortly. The article goes onto discuss the animal’s cages and how they were arranged ‘so they appear to be caves of natural rock’, allowing the animals to be seen roaming as one would in their ‘natural habitat’. The article highlights that the latest methods have been adopted to ensure the comfort and safety of the zoo’s animals, though falls short of explaining what these are.

Whilst much has changed in our understanding of speciation, natural habitat, and captive animal welfare since 1934, this newspaper article is a classic piece of holiday camp exotica, conjuring up the excitement and fear of man-eating lions, alongside the powerful imaginary of trophy hunters on Safari; all there to be experienced at your local holiday camp. With interest in early 20th century history coming ever more sharply in to view, maybe you could set your sights on bagging a local history research trophy of your own. You won’t find caves or man-eaters at our branches, but our helpful staff are experienced guides keen to help you take your first steps into historical research…why not come track us down?