Birth centenary of Dr. Jordi Sabater Pi (1922 – 2022)



Barcelona Zoo has hosted the presentation of the book Jordi Sabater Pi. L’últim naturalista*, written by Toni Pou and published by Barcelona City Council and Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. This is a pioneering piece of research into the life and intellectual adventures of one of the 20th century’s most important Catalan scientists. The book presents the epistolary legacy, revealing details of the history of Barcelona Zoo and the city based on the letters that Sabater Pi wrote or received during the nearly thirty years that he lived in Africa and how he managed to revolutionise some aspects of human knowledge. 


Taking part in the presentation event were the Third Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Barcelona Zoo Foundation Zoo, Laia Bonet, the book’s author, Toni Pou, and Oriol Sabater, the scientist's son and chair of the board of the Jordi Sabater Pi Collection in the UB's Resource Centre for Learning and Research (CRAI).


Coinciding with the presentation of the book was the official opening of the travelling exhibition entitled “Maa-Yiem, the extraordinary history of Jordi Sabater Pi”, commissioned by Alfons Par, which is on display in the Zoo’s 120th Anniversary Classroom until 12 September this year. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at this famous Catalan primatologist.  



Centenary of the birth of Jordi Sabater i Pi

Considered one of the world's leading scientists in the study of primates in their natural state and a discoverer of amphibian species and African birds, Jordi Sabater i Pi (1922 - 2009) was a pioneer in primatology in Catalonia and a key figure in ethnology. He was initially self-taught and made the most of the time he spent in the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea, from 1940 to 1969, to embark on his first research in the fields of anthropology and ethology. Work which, over time, led him to revolutionise the scientific world with various discoveries.


Part of his research work was based on studies of the cultural areas of chimpanzees, the discovery of a species of giant frog (Conraua goliath) in the Mbia River Falls and the identification of honeyguide birds (Melichneutes robustus), as well as the culture and language of the Fang people of Equatorial Guinea. His observations of primates in the Okorobikó mountains in the 1960s enabled him to discover some capacities among that species for making and using tools.


Sabater i Pi received various international awards with the publication in 1969 of some of the conclusions of his studies in the magazine Nature.


In addition to these discoveries, however, it was his encounter with a small albino gorilla that made his name locally. It happened during his stay in Bata, in Equatorial Guinea, while he was conducting a study on the coastal gorilla population. Jordi Sabater i Pi called the little gorilla Floquet de Neu [Snow Flake] and had him sent to Barcelona Zoo.



*On sale at the Zoo shops.