With the exceptions which have just been enumerated the whole of the animals which are here figured and described are actually living in the Tower Menagerie. Their continuance there affords a test of the fidelity of our work which could not be applied to any production on zoology that has yet appeared in this country, nor, to an equal extent, in any other. As a visit to the Menagerie will enable the reader at once to compare our representations and descriptions with their living prototypes, the imperative necessity of scrupulous accuracy[xvii] has been deeply impressed throughout the whole undertaking on the minds of those who have been engaged in its completion. In this, it is trusted, they have fully succeeded. To explain the share which each has taken in the work, and to record a debt of gratitude to those kind friends who have assisted in it, is the pleasing duty which it now remains to fulfil.
Macacus Radiatus. Desm.
In captivity the Black Bear is distinguished from the brown only by the less degree of docility and intelligence which he evinces: and the habits of the latter are so universally known that it would be useless to dwell upon them here. The specimen figured at the head of this article was presented to the Menagerie, in 1824, by Sir George Alderson, and is remarkably tame and playful. He has, until very lately, shared his den with the Hy?na, with whom he maintained a very good correspondence, except at meal-times, when they would frequently quarrel, in a very ludicrous manner, for a piece of beef, or whatever else might happen to furnish a bone of contention between them. The Hy?na, though by far the smallest of the two, was generally master; and the Bear would moan most piteously, and in a tone somewhat resembling the bleating of a sheep, while his companion quietly consumed the remainder of his dinner.
The very peculiar structure from which the Marsupial animals derive their name has been regarded by almost every naturalist who has written on the subject as so essential a deviation from the common type, that, setting aside all considerations of form or habits, and regardless even of those technical characters on which so much reliance is usually placed, they have for the most part agreed in uniting under the same family designation every animal in which it occurred. This peculiarity consists in a folding or doubling of the skin and its appendages beneath the lower part of the belly in the females, in such a manner as to form an open pouch or bag, in which the young are contained from a very early period, in which the process of suckling takes place, and in which, even for some time after they have acquired sufficient size and strength to leave it, the little ones continue to take refuge.
Such, indeed, is the outline which we have been taught to frame to ourselves of this noble animal; and beautifully has this imaginary sketch, for such in a great measure it will be found on closer examination, been filled up by the magic pencil of Buffon, who, in this, as in too many other instances, suffered himself to be borne along by the strong tide of popular opinion. Yielding to the current, instead of boldly stemming it, he has added the weighty sanction of his authority to those erroneous notions which were already consecrated by their antiquity, and has produced a history of the Lion, which, however true in its main facts, and however eloquent in its details, is, to say the least, highly exaggerated and delusive in its colouring. The Lion of Buffon is, in fact, the Lion of popular prejudice; it is not the Lion, such as he appears to the calm observer, nor such as he is delineated in the authentic accounts of those naturalists and travellers who have had the best means of observing his habits, and recording the facts of which they have been themselves eye witnesses.
The Cape Lion is seldom taken alive; his utter destruction and extermination forming the primary object of his pursuers. Occasionally, however, when a Lioness has been shot, and the hunters have been fortunate enough to trace out her den, the cubs are brought away, and in some measure domesticated, at least for a season, and until they acquire sufficient force to become dangerous. Up to this period some of the colonists will even suffer them to remain almost at large in their dwellings; but they have frequently occasion to rue the mercy they have shown, and are at length compelled, by the unequivocal manifestations of that ferocity which never fails to make its appearance when the animals have attained a certain age, to destroy the creatures whom they have nourished and caressed.