Memories of Adelaide Zoo and why Hobart doesn’t have one.
I was disappointed to learn that Hobart no longer had a zoo. I know not everyone approves of them but modern zoos where the animals live in a habitat close to what they would have in the wild and where breeding programs are carried out are a good thing I think. It means that people can see animals that they might never see otherwise and if you see them and learn about them you care about them more and are more likely to want to support animal welfare and research projects.
Zoos have improved a lot in my lifetime. I remember being taken to Adelaide Zoo as a child and seeing Samorn, the zoo’s sole elephant. Samorn lived in a concrete enclosure and sometimes gave rides in a grassed area near by. She spent the last few years of her life at Monarto Zoo in more natural surroundings. I was glad for her as I wondered even then if she was lonely and if that concrete pen was comfortable. It looked pretty grim. I also remember “George” the orangutan. He was quite famous in Adelaide. Back in the day if a guy said his name was George he would often be told “That’s a monkey’s name.” As far as I can remember a lot of the enclosures at the Adelaide Zoo were concrete and iron bars in the 1960s but by the time we moved away in 2002 it was a very different place. You can read about some of the most loved animals at the Adelaide Zoo here.
I found the gate to the old Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart when I was walking near the Botanical Gardens one day and read a short history of the zoo on a plaque there. There is a very good article about the history of the zoo on this blog too. It explains in detail how the zoo was once a private collection owned by Mary Grant Roberts. Mrs Roberts was a pioneer of the successful breeding of Tasmanian Devils. Her collection, which included several thylacines, (Tasmanian Tiger) was kept at her home in Sandy Bay, an inner suburb of Hobart. The entire collection was roughly 200 mammals, marsupials, reptiles and birds. I can’t help wondering what the neighbours thought about it. On her death in 1921 her family offered the collection to the state government of the day as the basis of a zoo but they declined. The Hobart City Council agreed to take it on if the government would subsidise it.
The zoo opened in 1923 at a site on the Queens Domain. It was closed in 1937 when the cost of running it could no longer be borne. The zoo is mostly known as the place where the last Thylacine died in 1936. Whenever I see the following footage of the thylacine at the zoo I feel so sad. They were wiped out by humans. Some people believe that somewhere deep in the Tasmanian wilderness thylacine may still exist. I doubt it but like the Loch Ness Monster if they are out there I rather hope nobody ever finds them again.
What struck me especially about the zoo gates was that all the animals look really sad. I don’t know if this was intentional on the part of the artist but to me the images are very much what the old style zoos were about.
Today there are wildlife parks in Tasmania. Zoo Doo in Richmond is not far from Hobart and has both native and exotic animals. I visited there a few years ago but hope to go again in the near future. The Tasmania Zoo at Riverside near Launceston is another privately run wildlife park. I have not visited it as yet but will post something about it when I do.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is near Brighton, north of Hobart and it’s focus is on native animals. Injured wildlife is cared for at Bonorong. In the north of the state Wings Wildlife Park has a similar function. I did visit there some years ago and it was very interesting. You can actually stay on site at the park and it is not a bad idea as it is in quite an isolated spot. The nearest sizeable town would be Ulverstone on the north-west coast. I have included links to all of the places mentioned. There are many others around the state as well.