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London's venemous snakes killed in WW2

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by FunkyGibbon, 18 Mar 2016.

  1. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    I received the book '1,227 QI FACTS To Blow Your Socks Off' for my birthday.
    I quote from page 69:

    At the outbreak of the Second World War, zookeepers killed all the poisonous insects and snakes in London Zoo, in case it was bombed and they escaped.

    Anyone heard about this before?
     
  2. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Yes, in connection with maximal lengths in king cobras, as the longest yet officially documented specimen was among them.
     
  3. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Yes, destroying the venomous snakes at the outbreak of World War II, has been well documented in books about the history of London Zoo.
     
  4. kiang

    kiang Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Were any of the large carnivores destroyed at that time due to safety issues?
     
  5. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    I think it's mentioned elsewhere on here that some animals were moved to Whipsnade; no doubt someone can enlighten us further :)
     
  6. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I don’t think so although, bizarrely, the manatees were destroyed.

    See the thread below for details of the giant pandas being sent to Whipsnade during the war

    http://www.zoochat.com/38/what-happened-london-zoos-last-pandas-99519/
     
  7. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Maybe they thought the pool was liable to drain in the event of a bomb strike and this was a humane measure to prevent the possibility of suffocation? Seems a little extreme.
     
  8. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member

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    .....venomous snakes killed....

    Most of the Aquarium was closed down, and this may have influenced the fate of the Manatees.
     
  9. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    What kind of "poisonous insects" would the zoo have had? Are they talking about venomous spiders and scorpions?
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    yes, spiders and scorpions; specifically black widow spiders are repeatedly mentioned in sources, probably because they are the most notorious.

    It wasn't only the zoo's animals which were killed - apparently hundreds of thousands of household pets (cats and dogs) were killed by owners distraught at the thought of what might happen to them otherwise: Panic that drove Britain to slaughter 750,000 family pets in one week | Daily Mail Online

    That article mentions more London Zoo animals:


    This is an original news report from the Daily Telegraph from September 1939:
     
  11. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I found this also: The first British casualties of war in 1939
    The London Zoo site has more as well (of course): https://www.zsl.org/blogs/artefact-of-the-month/zsl-london-zoo-during-world-war-two
     
  12. wayne4swfc

    wayne4swfc Well-Known Member

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    It seems strange to have destroyed fruit bats and a muntjac (which I believe was already wild in the uk) and yet keep Komodo dragons and pythons.
     
  13. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    It is interesting that you specifically mention king cobra.

    At Edinburgh Zoo, too, the Council ruled that all the venomous snakes should be destroyed at the start of the war.

    However, the Director of Edinburgh Zoo, T. H. Gillespie, was particularly fond of a king cobra named “Rebekah” so, ignoring the Council’s instructions to destroy all the poisonous snakes, he refused to have this individual killed.