Consul the Great
"Consul the Great"
"The Almost Man"

The image above is shown with the permission of Chetham's Library, Manchester

When he died in 1894, the chimpanzee, Consul, became a poster boy and the image above appeared on that poster, which sold for one penny, as a memorial to the chimp. I suspect that he might today be a poster boy for animal rights groups and anti-zoo lobbyists who would use this anthropomorphic figure as evidence of man's excesses in dealing with wild animals.

The truth of course is that Consul and the Jennisons who owned him lived in different times and the way in which he was used at Belle Vue must have seemed quite appropriate to the owners and the visitors of the day, however we might view it today. Zoos in the year 2002 are defended as places to protect endangered species and as centres for research and education. In John Jennison's day they were places of wonder where visitors went to see creatures they had only read about or seen in lantern slide shows. The people who cared for the animals knew little more about them than those who came to stare in wonder.

Consul arrived at Belle Vue in 1893 but only lived until the following year dying at age 5. He was often seen dressed in a smoking jacket and cap and, as you can see in the photograph, he smoked a pipe. It is said that he accompanied James Jennison to Board Meetings.

After his death, he was replaced by Consul II who was famous for riding a tricycle while playing a violin.


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