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A Zoo is a special place to keep livestock, birds, marine or land reptiles, and fish; it is a place to keep wild animals for displays, or studies about their behavior. Since a zoo usually looks like a Garden, Farsi-speakers call it "Baghe Vahsh" meaning a garden for wild animals. A zoo is a vast green expanse, similar to a garden in which wild animals and birds are collected from all continents. It is a lot in which animal are kept for displays and each animal enjoys its special habitat.

In big cities, zoo serves as scientific and research centers. Usually wild animals’ cages are made of steel bars. Some of the cages are surrounded by ditches, to keep the visitors at a safe distance. Building zoo and keeping wild animals in different forms have been common from ancient times among nations. Ancient Roman and Greek kings collected and kept wild animals for scientific and entertainment purposes.

After the conquest of Babylon, Alexander the Great collected many species of Asian wild animals and transferred them to Greece; this menagerie was Aristotle’s major source for the History of Animals. Roman aristocrats had their own personal menageries, and this gave birth to gladiators and afterwards circus displays. We can also trace this practice in post-medieval France, such as that of Francis I in Saint Paul. Later on Louis XIV ordered the establishment of the Royal Zoo in Versailles that remained until the French Revolution. In 1792 by the order of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s “The Public Garden” was turned into a museum and years later, the zoo animals of Versailles and the private menageries were transferred to this public garden.

Nowadays in every European capital there is a big zoo. Islamic countries have not been exceptions in this practice. Jurji Zaidan Says “Caliphs were entertained by collecting and keeping wild animals such as lions, Tigers and elephants. To give them a regal aura. Mansur was the first person from Abbasid Caliphate who followed this practice; Who had many elephants. Harun al-Rashid also kept lions, tigers, dogs and monkeys and it is said that his wife’s monkey enjoyed thirty servants, human clothes and a scimitar around its waist. As the monkey rode a horse its servants followed respectfully and when people came to visit, kissing the monkey’s hand was a part of the formalities. Once Yazid Ibn-Morsad paid Harun’s wife a visit and was asked to kiss the monkey’s hand. Infuriated, he drew his scimitar and cleaved the poor animal. When Harun got to know about this misfortune, he reprimanded Yazid. In his defense Yazid said “Oh Caliph, I am here to serve the Muslim’s Caliph that is you, not the monkeys.” this reply won him Harun’s pardon.

 As al-Mohtadi ascended the throne, his strict observance of Islamic rules made him kill all the wild animals in the castle, but this ban did not last long and after his reign, one could see animals even in Caliphate Bureaus. Adud al-Dawla had an escort of chained lions and elephants in public places to intimidate the common people. Isma'il ibn Ahmad, the second Emir of Samanid dynasty had a chained lion to guard his tent. In other Islamic nations this practice was followed; Ahmad ibn Tulun had a special garden for his wild animals and one could see different cages, nests and houses meant for different animals. Servants fed the animals and cleaned the cages through holes on the tops of the cages. Among his animals there was a wild lion called Zariq that was so attached to Ahmad to the point that they had their meals together, wolfing down chickens and lambs! As Ahmad fell asleep, Zariq guarded him so that no one could disturb him. To repay Zariq’s favors they had fastened a gold leash around its neck.

Among the viziers of Egypt’s Court, Jafar ibn-Khanzabe was fond of animals and insects such as vipers, scorpions and centipedes. In his house he had special rooms to keep his collection and anyone who contributed to this collection would enjoy his generosity. Aziz Fatemi, the Caliph of Egypt had a rare menagerie among which was a colorful, double-chinned, bearded animal Called Ongha. In the City of Zahra, Caliph Naser Umayyad had special gardens for wild animals and birds. Many Caliphs enjoyed fishing and pigeon racing.

 The first modern zoo in Iran was opened in Naser al-Din Shah Qajar’s reign in a tulip garden that is today’s Laleh-Zar Street. Afterwards this garden was transferred to Farah Abad and was considered the Royal Zoo.

Dehkhoda’s Encyclopedia