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1942

My visits to Chester Zoo in the war

By Jill Bleckly

I was at school at High Walls, Christleton in the war and my best afternoons after school were spent at Chester zoo. My mother used to ride her bicycle with the dog in the front basket, our picnic in the back one and wheeling my bike - don't know how she did it - to meet me at the end of the school day. We would first go to see Mowgli and Peter and then the rest of the animals. The cages were very small in those days. At that time there was a lot of bad publicity about a lion and a dog being in the same cage - how cruel it was, etc. etc., but those two were great companions. For example, when Mowgli accidentally stepped on Peter's paw, people said that that would be the end of Peter but not so, Mowgli held him between his front paws and licked the wound which healed. It was very sad when Mowgli got pneumonia (I believe) and died and Peter was left on his own but pined and I think he was put to sleep because he couldn't be housed as a normal dog after living with a lion.

There was one amusing incident - I used to love the elephant ride and one day when it was over, my mother told me to wait nearby while she went to the toilet. Molly (I think that was her name) could smell the apples in a bag I was holding to give to the various animals and decided to investigate. Imagine my mother's horror on coming to find me, seeing me walking rather quickly towards her, clutching my bag and being followed at a rapid pace by an elephant. Mother told me to drop the bad (that was out of the question because the other animals were not going to be done out of their apples) and I continued with Molly getting closer by the minute! Fortunately her keeper realised she was missing and arrived to take her back to perform her duties.

In the late 50s we moved to the Wirral so we were able to visit Chester zoo frequently and watch all the additions in amazement. My last visit, in 1982 I think, was when I took my mother in a wheelchair to see a good part of the zoo which she thoroughly enjoyed. I live in
Geneva now, by the way, and have the BBC and ITV channels which is why I was able to see "The One Show" when June Mottershead was interviewed. I missed "Our Zoo" that evening but hope to see the next one.

I am delighted to think that Chester Zoo is now considered the best zoo in the U.K. Who would have thought so way back in the 40s when I first went there on my bike.

"Bon continuation" as they say.

Jill Bleckly, Geneva, Switzerland.

See more: Special Zoo Moments