The Trivandrum Zoo, Museum and Gardens is one of the oldest of its kind in India. Swathi Thirunal (1813-1847), illustrious king and music composer who ruled southern Kerala (Travancore) during 1830-1847 may be said to be the visionary behind establishment of the Trivandrum Zoo and Museum. Immediately after his assumption of power, he modernized the horse breeding establishment at Thovalay and some fine mares were procured. The best elephants from the forest Department and other places were selected and cantoned at Trivandrum. To the Trivandrum stables was a menagerie where royal tigers, panthers, cheetahs, deers, boars and all sorts of wild animals which are abound in the Travancore ................................ forests were collected and caged. It is also known that a lioness which had been imported from Africa into the French settlement at Mahe was purchased and added to the collection of animals. Birds of all knds, indigenous and foreign were collected. While being open to sight-seers, it is also said to have been used for sham sport. Why animals, Swathi Thirunal had Chinese nationals brought to Trivandrum and attached to the palace and he is said to have curiously whatched how they fed themselves with two small sticks. Arabs, Negroes, Turks, Malays, Japanese, Nepalese and people of every nationality in India were brought to Trivandrum one by one, at different times, to satisfy his curiousity. It can be justly said that Swathi Thirunal thus created a nucleus for the modern Zoo and Natural History Museum in Trivandrum. It was however left to his brother Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma and British Resident William Cullen to formally establish these institutions.
The Museum in its current form was started in the year 1853. It owes its origin to the joint efforts of J.A. Brown, then Director of the Trivandrum Observatory and General William Cullen, then British Resident. The Government approved of Brown's idea of starting a Museum in a part of his Bungalow, and General Cullen offered certain specimens of Travancore rocks which formed the earliest collection in the institution.
In order to place the Museum on a surer and more satisfactory basis a society was organized in 1855 with Sri Uthram Thirunal the Maharaja of Travancore as Patron, the British Resident as President, the Elaya Raja as Vice-President and Mr. Brown as Secretary of the Society and Director of Museum. Its objective was to afford instruction and encouragement in arts and crafts by the exhibition of specimens of interest in natural history and products of art and industry, indigenous and foreign. After a few years the Society ceased to exist