From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 23, December 1, 1832.
To the Editor of The Dublin Penny Journal.
SIR--When in Dublin last week, I walked out to the Phoenix Park, for the purpose of seeing the Zoological Gardens, which I had been anxious for some time back to visit, and on returning home, I took notes of what particularly struck me, during my stay there.
I now send the remarks I made, and if you think them worthy of a place in your Magazine, you will be good enough to have them inserted.
When first I heard of the establishment of a Zoological Society in Dublin, I was greatly pleased; but much afraid lest the undertaking should not succeed so prosperously as could be wished. I have, however, been most agreeably disappointed, and from the state in which it now is, I have no doubt it will reflect the highest credit on its founders, and be an honour to the country in which it has been formed.
The situation which has been chosen for the Zoological Gardens could not have been more beautiful or appropriate, and it is placed at so very convenient a distance from the city, as to afford a most agreeable termination to a walk or drive from town.
On entering the garden, the first object which presents itself on turning to the right, is a cage, containing a pair of red grouse, (Tetrus Scoticus). These pretty birds seemed completely domesticated, and so familiar as to eat from your hand. They were busily engaged in devouring some young tops of heath, of which they seemed remarkably fond; and the male occasionally uttered his pleasing call.
Further to the right is a shed or house appropriated to some of the animals. I was surprised at the very confined space in which so many were crowded. There were in the room, a leopard and leopardess, a hyena, several monkeys, a squirrel, an ichneumon, a pelican, several macaws and parrots, a Kestrel hawk, and two fine herons, birds, tortoises, and others, all confined in a room not more than twenty or twenty-five feet long, and ten or twelve broad. I trust that this building is quite temporary, and not intended as a fixed residence.
The animals cannot be seen to advantage, and must feel their strict confinement any thing but pleasant. The committee of the garden must be aware that the space allotted to each animal, is far from sufficient either to render its situation at all comfortable, or permit of its being examined as it should be. I speak, however, now without being aware whether their situation be only temporary, as I confidently hope they are only confined here until more suitable places can be erected.
Leaving this shed, I passed on to the ostriches, and I was greatly delighted at witnessing these noble birds. They seemed in remarkably fine plumage, and in perfect health, and have, since their arrival, added greatly to the attraction of the garden.
Adjoining them, are two emues, which were likewise in good plumage, and seemed to enjoy their situation as well as could be expected. Should not the boxes which seem intended to protect the ostriches from the inclemency of the weather be much larger, for the birds are obliged on entering them, to stoop very much, and they could not possibly remain in them except in a bent attitude?
Leaving these, I passed on to the Wapiti deer and some other animals adjoining, which I had never seen before, and which could not fail to call forth my admiration. They were perfectly tame and gentle, and allowed me to touch them without exhibiting the slightest alarm.
I shall refrain from noticing many other animals which I saw, and proceed to the notice of a large cage or house divided into many apartments. In one of these there were some golden and silver pheasants; in a second, some partridges and common pheasants; and in a third, one long-eared owl, and four white or barn owls. The owls were all sitting in the sleepless manner in which they usually remain during the day.
In the lawn, chained to some trees, I noticed the Moor buzzard, common buzzard, and Peregrine falcon. Why are these poor creatures chained? The buzzards are altogether precluded from perching, as the branches of the trees to which they are chained are far above their reach. Why not have a house erected which would contain all these and more, and which could be done at a trifling expense. It might be made by driving stakes into the ground in a circular form, and roofing it in a similar manner to the house containing the pheasants, &c. By this, they would be protected from the severity of the weather, and would enjoy sufficient liberty to render them comfortable, and yet, at the same time, be seen to more advantage than they can be at present.
Turning from these, I stood before two of our noblest birds, the golden eagles (Falco chrysaetos.) One was perched, and the other, and apparently the younger, was sitting on the ground uttering its sharp and piercing cry. They seemed birds in first year's plumage, in which state, they are described as the ringtail eagles of many ornithologists, In viewing them we cannot but be forcibly struck by the great power displayed in the formation of their bills and feet, and the fine adaptation of these birds to the rank which they hold among the feathered tribes. With what weapons could they have been furnished better fitted, for obtaining their prey than the powerful bill and talons? And who can look at the great strength of the wings, and not perceive how admirably they are adapted for sustaining the bird at a great height in the air, and for a considerable space of time. In the lofty regions, which she inhabits, the golden eagle, like the lion, owns no superior but man, and she owns him only as such, on account of his intellectual powers. The brilliant eye of the eagle attracts our notice, and so we may form some idea of its wonderful power, when we bring to mind the fact, that when she soars above as to such a height, that you can scarcely discern her form, she will pounce with unerring certainty on her prey lying many hundreds of feet below.
When we see these noble birds confined within the precincts of a cage, and reflect on what would have been their situation had they not been brought under the dominion of man, we cannot but wish to render them as comfortable as circumstances will permit. Fixed as they are at present, they are, perhaps, more at ease than many of their fellow-prisoners, but I would suggest the propriety of appropriating large spaces to them, and the pair of sea eagles (Falco albicilla) situated at a short distance from them. This might readily be done, and, by enjoying greater scope for moving from perch to perch, they would, I am sure, feel their confinement less irksome.
I now visited the sea fowl, and here the same want of room struck me, perhaps more forcibly than in the case of the eagles. Might not a railing be put down which would extend to a considerable distance across the pond, and afford them better accommodation for cleaning themselves, and would tend to preserve them in better health than they can be, limited as they are at present.
I have now, Sir, dwelt very briefly on a few of the most interesting animals in the garden. My object has been, not to lay before you any thing like a description of the animals it contains, but to give you the remarks made by one who, though a stranger, feels deeply interested in the welfare of the Dublin Zoological Society. I have hinted at many improvements which I think necessary to the comfort of the animals, but I have done so, under the hope that the committee had already determined to enlarge the apartments allotted to the different animals. The small size of the cages must, I think, be almost the first circumstance which strikes a person entering the garden, and, as it is one which can be so easily remedied, I trust the committee will have it done as soon as circumstances will permit.
I need not express to you the great pleasure I experienced on viewing the garden, nor the pride I felt, as a native of Ireland, at having such a society now fairly established in the capital of my native country. To the inhabitants of Dublin, it must prove a source of enjoyment, and to strangers visiting the city, it offers the means of spending two or three hours, in the forenoon, most agreeably. I understand that some objections have been raised to the circumstance of the garden being opened to the public on Sunday. To those persons who endeavour to throw such a stumbling block in the way, I would only remark, that if we committed no more heinous crime on the sabbath day, than viewing some of the noblest specimens of nature's handy work -- specimens which we might not have an opportunity of seeing elsewhere, and which are calculated to excite in our minds, the strongest feelings of admiration and gratitude towards that wise and beneficent Being, (whose eye is over all creation, and whose attention is devoted to the most insignificant of his creatures,) I say, if we commit no greater crime than this, we shall have nothing to dread from the displeasure of the Deity for our waste of time. Happy would it be for many, could they say that their time was spent in so harmless a manner! Why would those who object to the gardens being open on Sundays, deprive those who are engaged during the week in the business of life, of so grateful a recreation? Are not the lower orders of society as well entitled to view the works of God as the highest nobles in the land? Why then shut the door of improvement or pleasure to those persons on the only day on which they could take advantage of it!
Better to spend two or three hours innocently in the Zoological Gardens, than resort to the public houses, as I am sorry to say, too many do. In the latter, they visit the abodes of vice, and instead of returning to their homes with their minds expanded and improved, they return, perhaps, more debased and corrupted. In visiting the former, they enjoy a pleasant walk, they look at some of the most beautiful creatures in the world, and "from nature they look up to nature's God," they return to their families, deeply impressed with what they have witnessed, and to persons once accustomed to examine the works of the Creator, vice becomes robbed of half its temptation.
I trust the committee will show their good sense by not attending to the suggestions of any person on the subject, but allow the garden to remain open as hitherto, that by this arrangement no person may be debarred from the gratification of visiting it.
To his Majesty and the Zoological Society of London, the committee, and the public of Dublin in general, should feel deeply indebted for their very handsome donations to the Dublin Zoological Garden.
Persons have many opportunities of procuring living specimens of both native and foreign animals, and as suitable places for maintaining them in will be provided by the society, it is to be hoped that many donations will be henceforth received. The animals will be much better attended to at the gardens, than they can be in a private establishment, and by sending them there an opportunity is afforded the public of viewing many animals, from which they would be otherwise excluded.
Trusting that the remarks I have made will be received in the same spirit in which they are given, and with best wishes for the welfare of the society,
I remain, your obedient servant,
Belfast.-- Nov. 10th
I. D. M.