Clinton Keeling (1932-2007) in the later years of his life published a number of his own books on the history of zoos and the keeping of wild animals in captivity. He often referred to the books kept by London Zoo which listed the daily happenings. The books provide more than a glimpse into social history as well as the history of the Zoo and the Zoological Society of London.
In my book They All Came Into The Ark I mentioned a number of people who had deposited reptiles and amphibians at the London Zoological Garden during the period covered by the first world war, and I can see no great harm in doing so again here, perhaps in a little more detail…
...Albert L. de Lautreppe, 1 Ravenna Road, Putney, London S.W. presented quite a large collection of lizards (Horned Toads…) and terrapins - particularly Diamond-backs.
All I know about Master J.C. Dendy (as he was described in the Occurrences Book) was that he lived at Vale Lodge, Vale of Health, Hampstead, London N.W.1, that he kept a large herpetological collection and that, on 16th July 1915, he presented it to the Society. It comprised Chicken, Wolf’s [sic], Tessalated [sic], Dark-green, Say’s, King, Aesculapian and Corn Snakes, Seps (a primitive skink believed by the Arabs of North Africa to be poisonous, in fact the word “septic” is derived from its name), Green and Six-lined Lizards, Horned “Toads”, two terrapins, and Edible Frogs. As I say this is all I have to go on, but I rather suspect he was a public school boy who, adding a few non-existent years to his age, had decided to go to war — a state of affairs by no means rare in the early stages of the conflict — and such evidence that there is suggests he did not come back.
Albert L de Lautreppe
Lautreppe’s story starts easily enough but then gets more complicated.
Mr Albert de Lautreppe who was commissioned last year to obtain material for the Garden during his visit to Peru on a mining errand, has recently returned, bringing with him a notable collection of small cacti which have mostly been incorporated into the public series— in conservatory house No 5, a considerable number of other living plants and over two hundred packets of seeds which have been sown in the propagating houses. He also secured some herbarium specimens, principally of lichens. Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, volume 3, 1902.
Plants for the conservatories from Chihuahua and Rio Balsa, Mexico. Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, volume 5, 1904.
The average rainfall of Zacatecas for the past ten years, as stated by Mr Albert L. de Lautreppe, who has made a special study of the weather records in connection with his business venture...U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, Bulletin 102, 1907.
But Peru has a plan to get in far ahead of them all and build a railroad that shall tap the rich country and carry its products to the Pacific Coast over the mountains.
To ascertain the best route, that nation commissioned a French engineer, Albert de Lautreppe, of Paris, to explore the country and find a road. He led an expedition and reported that the plan was feasible.
Now he has arrived in New York with remarkable news. He found immense rivers spanned by wonderful bridges made of basket work by the natives. More remarkable than all, he found tribes of cannibal Indians, whose boast was that they would never allow white men to pass through their country. By diplomacy and generous presents he managed to win, if not their friendship, at least suffererance, and he reached his objective point after many dangers but without being harmed.
De Lautreppe says tha he can not tell why they permitted his party to cross their territory alive. “the Chunchos,” he says, “told us that they had massacred three white men in Carabaya just before we arrived. Just why we escaped trouble I can not explain, as they were entirely fearless and our firearms caused them neither surprise nor alarm. Somehow we had the luck to a peace which neither of us broke. It may be they were convinced that we were not after their women, which seems to be a great cause of tribal wars there. Most tribes are short of women, and, therefore, they raid each other frequently.”
All the tribes that he found exist solely by hunting and rove over great extents of territory. De Lautreppe says that the country throughout shows evidence of great wealth in gold, and that Peru can open it by building less than 400 miles of railroad, part of which, indeed, is already under construction.
Albert Le Cocq de Lautreppe, a citizen of France and a resident of New York ...have invented certain new and useful improvements in Stills. U.S. Patent 744367, 17 November 1903.
One and the Same Person?
We have two guests in the house, Captain-Count Wumbrand and Monsieur Albert de Lautreppe. Lautreppe is awfully nice — a quiet gentlemanly fellow. Gonfle de Reves, as he describes himself — once a sculptor in the atelier of Henry Crosse, he knows something of art and is really a resource to me.
At dinner in the evening, when all the household was assembled, Mrs Stevenson and Mrs Strong, Lloyd Osborne and Count Wurmbrand, a charming and cultivated Austrian soldier acting at the time as chief cowherd on the Stevenson Farm, with the addition on one or two occasions of M. de Lautreppe, a French naturalist on a visit to the island, a delightful companion, we were a merry and odd-looking party. The Living Age, Boston, 10 January 1920.
|Vailima in 2008, Robert Louis Stevenson's House in Samoa|
|Vailima is good for seeing wildlife. This skink is I think Emoia nigra|
and the Flat-billed Kingisher (Todirhamphus recurvirostris) can be found
in the tress surrounding the lawns.
Lautreppe had presented animals to the zoo before 1915. A very incomplete search shows that on 25 September 1893 (remember he was, if it is the same Lautreppe, in Samoa on Easter Sunday — March 25th — 1894) he gave the zoo the gerbil, Gerbillus longifrons from Tunis (now included in Meriones crassus, Sundevall’s Jird) and Long-tailed Field Mouse (Mus [Apodemus] sylvaticus). Since the latter also occurs in north Africa, I would imagine he thought he had something less common than a species that could be caught in Regent’s Park.