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Jun 03 2014

Civets and Tarsiers and Tapirs (oh my!)

This post is contributed by Ashley Williams, Project Archivist, Animal Rights and Animal Welfare Collections.

Included in the Animal Welfare Institute Records is a collection of photographs by Ernest P. Walker. When I first encountered the photographs I was amazed by the sheer variety of animals photographed. There are pictures of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), but also several animals I had never heard of or did not know what they looked like: civets, lemmings, tapirs, and tarsiers (also known as bush babies), to name a few. I was intrigued to learn about these animals and curious as to the images I would come across. The collection did not disappoint.

Civet

Given the number and quality of the photographs, I realized this collection was likely not created by an average animal-loving person. My thoughts turned to “who in the world is Ernest P. Walker and why did he take all of these pictures?” I was quickly able to learn more about him: he worked as a warden and inspector for the United States Bureau of Fisheries in Alaska in the 1910s upon graduating from college. After a three year stint as a game warden in Arizona and California, Walker returned to Alaska in 1921 with the United States Biological Survey as a fur and game warden and executive officer for the Alaska Game Commission. In 1927, Walker moved to Washington, DC and assumed the role of assistant director of the National Zoological Park in 1930, where he remained until 1956.

Lemming

Walker was more concerned with mammals as living animals rather than their individual biological components. Over the years, he observed their feeding habits, care of young, and other behavioral characteristics and began taking photographic portraits of many species. To observe certain small mammals more closely than his duties at the zoo would allow, he brought them into his home as pets. Most of the photographs date from his term as assistant director.

Tarsier

Upon retiring from the National Zoo, Walker, along with his qualified assistants, compiled data, prepared photographs, and arranged a manuscript into what would become the three-volume Mammals of the World. Two of his other works are Walker’s Bats of the World and Walker’s Primates of the World, all of which are available at the NCSU Libraries. Information about the animals’ breeding, habitats, food, and physical description, along with a photograph or illustration, is included for all but four animals. Additionally, Walker wrote two books for the Animal Welfare Institute: First Aid and Care of Small Mammals and Studying Small Mammals.

South American Tapir

To learn more about Ernest Walker’s photographs, or about the Animal Welfare Institute Records, be sure to check out the collection guide.