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Animals, Africa and Other Secrets - True Short Stories by Bob Golding

Most of the short stories below were written during the last three or four years and are based on my experiences in Nigeria, West Africa, between 1963 and 1979 when I was Curator, then Director, of the Zoological Garden at the University of Ibadan.  The stories tell something of my work and life in West Africa.  They also demonstrate that, as is evidenced by emails and other messages I receive to this day, a properly targeted zoological garden can be highly effective in stimulating an interest in animals, and indeed the natural world, in people from many different backgrounds.  The stories are mostly between 14 and 22 pages long with photographs.  They include accounts of some of the (sometimes extraordinary) activities and events involving the Zoo, the staff, zoo visitors and some of the animals.  The accompanying photographs feature many West African animal species, some rarely photographed, as well as the many people and places I encountered. 

Each story is available here as a  PDF document which can be downloaded, printed and read when convenient.  Simply click the required title/image and it will appear on-screen with perhaps a very brief delay.

Bob Golding, Bristol, UK, December 2020.

A Zoological Garden in Nigeria, West Africa

True SHORT STORIES based on Bob Golding’s work at the Zoological Garden, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

GORILLAS FOR CHRISTMAS

1.  9 pages .  A true short story with several photographs about how, on Christmas Day 1970, Father Christmas made an unplanned visit to the two young gorillas in the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden, Nigeria, West Africa and how they reacted to someone they weren’t quite sure they knew.

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CAN GORILLAS SWIM?

2.  23 pages with photographs. Two young gorillas were brought for sale (illegally) to the Zoological Garden at the University of Ibadan and were confiscated from the vendors on Federal Government instructions. The bizarre road journey across the city of Ibadan with the newly arrived gorillas is described; also how they first came into contact with water and how their behaviour influenced the design of a water-filled moat that was to form an impassable but safe gorilla barrier. But… can gorillas actually swim?  

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ENCOUNTERS WITH THE AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANT

3.  16 pages with photographs. For many years the Zoological Garden had two young female African forest elephants, an animal now accepted as a separate species of elephant and one of the three elephant species globally. This elephant has rarely been seen in a zoo anywhere in the world.

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IN THE BEGINNING WERE TWO CHAMELEONS

4. 17 pages with photographs. Describes how, from 1963 and for several years subsequently, a collection of reptiles was gradually assembled  at the Zoological Garden, University of Ibadan, and then a purpose - designed Reptile House constructed where zoo visitors could observe the exhibits in a safe environment.

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THE MAGNIFICENT BEE-EATERS

5.  17 pages with photographs. This story relates to the completion of the Kainji Dam in Nigeria in 1968, the formation of the vast Kanji Lake followed by the flooding, then submerging, of the breeding sites of thousands of northern carmine bee-eaters along the banks of the River Niger. Also described  is how how some bee-eaters were sent to London Zoo for a new bird exhibit, the first time that this species had been exhibited there.

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THE GREEN MAMBA

6.   14 pages with photographs.  A zoo keeper from the Zoological Garden was bitten by a venomous green mamba snake, not in the Zoo but when he was out and about on personal business one day. He was treated in hospital quite quickly - but with the wrong antivenom!  The Zoo immediately made its own, correct, version of the antivenom  available and the keeper recovered.

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THE LEIGH WOODS PYTHON

7.  13 pages with photographs. This tells of a royal python that was born in the wild in Nigeria. It was then taken to the UK where it spent tne  rest of its life in a Bristol suburb and lived to be at least 33 years old.  

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