Historic, but not famous

William Temple Hornaday, Sc.D. (December 1, 1854 – March 6, 1937) was an American zoologist, conservationist, taxidermist, and author. He served as the first director of the New York Zoological Park, known today as the Bronx Zoo, and he was a pioneer in the early wildlife conservation movement in the United States.

After serving as a taxidermist at Henry Augustus Ward’s Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York, he spent 1.5 years, 1877–1878 in India and Ceylon collecting specimens. In May 1878 he reached southeast Asia and traveled in Malaya and Sarawak in Borneo. His travels inspired his first publication, Two Years in the Jungle (1885).

In 1882 he was appointed chief taxidermist of the United States National Museum, a post he held until his resignation in 1890. In 1896, the newly chartered New York Zoological Society (known today as the Wildlife Conservation Society) enticed Hornaday back to the zoo field by offering him the opportunity to create a world-class zoo.

Hornaday played a commanding role in selection of the site for the Bronx Zoo—a nickname he hated—which opened in 1899, and in the design of early exhibits. He served in the triple role of Director, General Curator, and Curator of Mammals. Among his several activities, he established one of the world’s most extensive collections, insisted on unprecedented standards for exhibit labeling, promoted lecture series, and offered studio space to wildlife artists. Hornaday’s advocacy is credited with preserving the American bison from extinction. At the end of the nineteenth century, he began to plan, with Theodore Roosevelt’s support, a society for the protection of the bison. Years later, as director of the Bronx Zoo, Hornaday acquired bison, and by 1903 there were forty bison on the Zoo’s ten-acre range.

During his lifetime, Hornaday published almost two dozen books and hundreds of articles on the need for conservation, frequently presenting it as a moral obligation. Most notable was the 1913 publication—and distribution to every member of Congress—of his bestselling Our Vanishing Wildlife: Its Extermination and Preservation. Throughout his career, he lobbied and provided testimony for several congressional acts for wildlife protection laws.

In 1913, he established the Permanent Wild Life Protection Fund as a vehicle to fund his tireless conservation lobbying efforts. He may be responsible for more legislation than any other for the preservation of animals in the United States.

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