«Thus far, the following animals have been captured». Collecting colonial fauna in Guinea-Bissau for the Lisbon Zoo

This paper questions the interplay between colonialism and the value of animal collection and exhibition in the late Portuguese colonial empire (1945-1974). It draws from the specific case of animal captures (including monkeys, birds, crocodiles, and gazelles) conducted by colonial administrators and African intermediaries in colonial Guinea-Bissau, in order for them to be displayed at the Zoological Garden in Lisbon, the imperial capital. This paper thus discusses two main points: i) the display of exotic animals coming from the colonial empire at Lisbon’s Zoological Garden (valued for educational and scientific purposes, while also serving an imperial rhetoric); ii) the mobilisation of the colonial administration’s hierarchy and resources, and also of African intermediaries such as chiefs and guards, in carrying out the capture and transport of exotic species.

Using primary sources from both Bissau-Guinean and Portuguese archives, this paper retraces the logic beneath animal collection in late colonial Africa as well as its actual accomplishment, questioning the ties between scientific institutions and colonial enterprise as well as the dynamics of such endeavour on the ground (administrative mobilisation, recruitment of African individuals).