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Exhibiting the Bullfrog: In Memoriam to Dr William Conway

Last week the zoo and aquarium world lost one of our brightest lights.  Dr Bill Conway was one of those rare things – an inspirational thinker and an implementer. 

In joining the New York Zoological Society as the curator of birds, Bill Conway was on the road to lead a new vision at the Bronx Zoo, bringing it to the forefront of inspirational zoo exhibit design.  Bill became the director of the society and then the president as it transitioned to the Wildlife Conservation Society. During this time the Bronx Zoo developed iconic exhibits such as Jungle World and Congo Gorilla Forest.  While other world-renowned zoos, such as Leipzig and Zurich, have moved zoo and aquarium design further forward, we still look back at Bill Conway’s innovative drive.  He led a transformative change in animal care, zoo design and conservation education.

In 1968, Bill Conway penned a paper “How to Exhibit a Bullfrog” in which he reported on a ‘conversation’ with an unknown proponent around the design of a zoo exhibit for the American bullfrog. In this he describes a series of exhibits designed to explore the wonder of even this back-garden American species. But the message is clear… “Wild land is going, and with it the excitement and wonder of wild creatures everywhere… Every animal in the zoo has its own story.” He summarises with explaining that so many people are disengaged from nature, except through their experience at the zoo, and yet it is their votes, the bus driver and the pharmacist, who will decide the fate of wild spaces and the species around them.

At Wild Planet Trust we have embraced the belief that every species is special, and each has its story to tell. We just need to tell them!

Thank you, Bill, for your inspiration still running strong.