There stands amidst the cages of birds and animals inside the compound of the Calcutta Zoological Gardens, a memorial monument dedicated to the memory of Carl Louis Schwendler, whose contribution in setting up the gardens in indisputable. The Zoological Gardens is one of the main attractions of Calcutta, which is frequented by thousands, especially during the pleasing winter days. However, probably nobody is aware about the memorial monument in the gardens, let alone to be interested to know anything about it.
Born of humble parentage on 18 May 1838 in Torgau, Prussia, Carl Louis Schwendler had to fight against heavy odds since his early days to come up in life. Due to poverty, even the progress of his studies was hampered a lot and at one stage he was compelled to accept the job of a bricklayer’s labourer during an interval of his obligatory abstention from the study. However, with his intelligence and perseverance, he ultimately became a successful man. Carl Louis Schwendler, the reputed German electrician, was one of the first advocates of the Tungsten based incandescent light bulb.
In British India, he served in the post of senior personnel in the Telegraph Department and also published an important textbook on telegraphs. He was actively involved in setting up telegraphic communication between Agra and Calcutta and successfully solved the problems relating to the transmission of submerged cables. The Indian Railways also entrusted him with the responsibility to perform a feasibility study of lighting the railway stations with electric lamps.
In 1867, the then President of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Sir Joseph Bart Fayrer, proposed a scheme in 1867, to establish a Zoological Garden in Calcutta. However, it was not materialised due to lack of space. During that time, Schwendler was also a member of the Asiatic Society and in 1873 he himself raised the proposal again. In his proposal he also offered his service to create the nucleus of the Zoological Gardens. Finally, in 1875 the then Lt. Govt. of Bengal, Sir Richard Temple took the initiative, a plot of land was chosen on Alipore Road and a managing committee of 5 members was set up. The zoo was inaugurated by Edward VII, Prince of Wales on 1st January1876. It is interesting to note that, the first batch of animals were from the private mini-zoo of Carl Schwendler.
During the initial stage, the zoo in Calcutta was maintained by Carl Schwendler himself, along with Botanist-Professor George King. It expanded rapidly, as many more animals were gifted by Indian and British residents from all over the country.
Carl Louis Schwendler died on 6 January 1882, and was buried in the quiet village churchyard of Schoencberg, near Berlin. Dedicated to his memory, the Carl Schwendler Memorial Monument, look alike an Egyptian obelisk was erected in the compound of Calcutta Zoo Gardens in 1883.