Watching David Attenborough's documentary, A Life on Our Planet, made me so depressed, I wanted to step in front of a UTA bus. We're quickly killing our planet—with little being done to stop the pollution and destruction of wilderness, oceans and species. Corporate greed has reduced the rainforests in Borneo by over 50% and replaced them with palm oil plantations that tragically have reduced habitat for orangutans and other wildlife. As we lose more tigers, elephants and rhinos, we may soon be living in a sci-fi world where the only wildlife left on this planet will be seen in zoos.
Speaking of zoos, did you know that Liberty Park was home to Utah's first zoo? In the late 1800s, a plot of land was dedicated as Liberty Park. A zoo was established in the early 1900s, with enclosures of monkeys, a wild deer and a smattering of wild birds.
Schoolkids gathered donations of pennies and nickels and helped buy an elephant named Princess Alice from a traveling circus. She soon had a son named Prince Utah, but she accidently killed him rolling over in her sleep. Locals reported they could see tears from her eyes and hear mournful cries from her for weeks. In the 1930s, she was known to escape and run through Sugar House and Liberty Wells yards, picking up laundry lines and clothing in her wanderings. She was called a vandal in local papers for her misdeeds, and it became apparent that space for a larger zoo was needed—one that was outside of town.
Enter the Hogle family of Utah. They donated a large parcel of land at the mouth of Emigration Canyon for the new zoo. A zoological society was formed to gather more donations for enclosures and infrastructure. During the Depression, they sold flowers to the public to pay for animal feed. Times were hard, and at one point, the zoo was cut off from its fresh water supply because of a $195 bill. The community rallied with donations and volunteers saving the zoo, despite someone sneaking in and shooting the polar bear dead, just for fun. Princess Alice died in 1953, and one of the zoo's directors (Gerald de Bary) was fatally bitten by a puff adder in 1964.
This past week, the chairman of the board of Hogle Zoo passed away at age 83. James "Jim" Hogle had served on the board for 46 years. He worked tirelessly to find funding, and in the 1980s, Salt Lake County took over funding the zoo's operating expenses. In the past two decades, the zoo created successful events such as "Boo at the Zoo" and "Zoo Lights" and lobbied to get voters to help fund the zoo. Thank you to all the Hogles, and especially Jim. May your work to save the world's animals continue. (The zoo is open daily during COVID. Visit hoglezoo.org for more information.)