The creation of London Zoo - when only one other existed across the world - is a story of jaw-dropping audacity. It is the story of trailblazing scientists, rival keepers and aristocratic naturalists collecting amazing animals from all around the world - and sending them to what was dubbed "the ark" by the mocking press.
Telling this almost unbelievable true story, Isobel Charman depicts a highly colourful but often forgotten moment in cultural history, through the eyes of incredible characters both famous and unfamiliar - from Stamford Raffles, Lord Stanley and a young Charles Darwin, to the chief competitor, the medical attendant and the head keeper.
And then there are the animals! Based on unprecedented research, Charman describes Tommy the Chimpanzee who lived, homesick, in his keeper's house; the giraffes that walked through the city and scared the cows; and Obaysch the celebrity hippo, the first that anyone in Britain had ever seen.