In addition to the Beaumaris Zoo, Harrison also sold thylacines and devils
to Melbourne Zoo. The Advocate of the 17th March 1934 (p. 3), in
an article entitled "Specimens for the Zoo", notes:
purchased by Mr.
Harrison. In its efforts to free itself the animal broke one of its
front legs, by which it was caught, but the injured member has been placed
in splints and Mr. Harrison is hopeful of it knitting. Although caught
only on Saturday
morning last, the animal appears to be quite tame, and will in all
probability be on exhibition, at the show
"Mr. James Harrison of Wynyard (Tas.) has been on a visit to Melbourne.
Mr. Harrison is known as the West Coast naturalist, and has supplied the
Melbourne Zoo with both Tasmanian devils and marsupial wolves, or tigers.
There is a ban on the exportation of these animals. The Tasmanian
tiger, long persecuted as a sheep killer, now enjoys some protection.
Naturalists fear for the future of the species, but Mr. Harrison says it
has strongholds in the wild north-western part of the State".
The Advocate of the 20th March 1928 (p. 4) records the captors, place of
capture, primary purchaser (Harrison), and estimated age of one of the
last wild-caught thylacines:
"Mr. James Harrison, who takes a keen interest in native flora and fauna,
is in possession of a fine type of young Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine.)
The animal, which Mr. Harrison estimates is 12 months old, was caught in
a rabbit trap by Messrs. Chester and Hope, who are prospecting at the Arthur
River, and conveyed to Wynyard, where it was
Harrison holding a taxidermied specimen of a platypus at Wynyard railway
station, 17th January 1938.
Archives Office of Tasmania.
Guiler (1986, p. 155) notes that Mr.
Bruce Walker of Wynyard recalled that his father, Dr. Walker, was called
to Harrison's home to set the bones of the foot of a thylacine, which had
been broken in a snare. He remembered it as being the last animal
captured in the district. This specimen was in all probability that
caught by Chester and Hope.
Harrison records in his notebook that on the 11th May 1928, he supplied
a "tiger" to Professor
Colin MacKenzie of the Australian Institute of Anatomy for the sum
of £12. This was a dead juvenile specimen. Another "tiger"
was also available for sale at £50 (probably the Chester and Hope
capture), and MacKenzie purchased this live specimen for the Melbourne
Zoo. In addition to thylacines, Harrison's notebook also records
that he supplied MacKenzie with 4 tiger cats (quolls), 11 bandicoots, 2
devils, and 5 rat kangaroos on the 20th June 1928 for the sum of £21.10/-.
The Ballarat Courier of the 5th June 1914 (p. 4) details the circumstances
surrounding the capture of three young thylacines that were purchased by
Harrison and subsequently sold to the Melbourne Zoo:
"Recent arrivals at Melbourne Zoological Garden are three young Tasmanian
wolves (Thylacine). These marsupials were brought from the island
State by Mr James Harrison of Wynyard; who obtained them from a trapper.
The Tasmanian wolf is hated by farmers and others who own sheep because
it preys on the animals. The war against the sheep killer has been
waged for long, and to districts where it was once numerous the wolf is
becoming rare. It roams over the colder parts of Tasmania.
The mother of the three young animals at the zoo was found dead in a snare
with one of her offspring. A careful search resulted in the discovery
of the other cubs. The parent was not killed by the snare, but drowned.
Endeavouring to escape, she fell into a pool and could not get out".
Telegraph, 8th June 1914 (p. 4).
These thylacines were those caught by A. R. "Dick" Rowe at Britton Swamp,
west of Christmas Hills, in northwest Tasmania. In an interview given
Rowe in 1951, he stated:
"Somewhere between 1910 & 1912, probably about 1912, helped catch 4
thylacines on the edge of the Britton Swamp, West of Christmas Hills.
Wallaby snares set along a ditch by Jack Rowe. Adult female was found
drowned in ditch, and three cubs alive in nearby snares. To test
the theory that Tigers have a stiff back, the mother was skinned, and the
carcase left to rot where it was caught. It was observed that the
vertebrae were just the same as any other animal. The carcase is
still probably there. The skin was sent to a Mr Popowski to be tanned,
but unfortunately he chopped off the carefully dried tail and paws.
An adult male was observed several times in the vicinity at the time, circling
people on the track, but departing as soon as it was observed. The
three cubs were kept in a large cage (about 12 foot by 15 foot) on Rowe's
farm for 3 to 4 months, waiting for a good price to be obtained for them.
Eventually they were sold to James Harrison for £5 each. Everyone
was impressed with the fact that each just fitted into a kerosene
case to be sent away".
The Daily Telegraph of the 8th June 1914 (p. 4) reports on the Rowe capture:
"Tasmanian Wolves: Last week Mr James Harrison, of Wynyard, received word
that some Tasmanian wolves had been trapped at Smithton. He immediately
went down, but found that a full grown was killed, but three cubs were
secured unhurt. These Mr Harrison took to Melbourne by the s.s. Oonah,
and a wire was received on Friday stating that the animals have been purchased
for the Melbourne Zoological Gardens. Mr Harrison is a strong advocate
of protecting marsupials for a period of seven years, as at the rate they
are being killed now they will soon be extinct".
Bushman Adye Jordon captured a juvenile thylacine at West Takone in June
1929. The animal was purchased by Harrison, who then sold it to the
Zoo in October 1929 for the sum of £45. It died on the
18th July of the following year.
Harrison was further charged with the task of obtaining two additional
thylacines for the zoo in 1934, as noted in an article entitled "Fauna
Board", published in the Examiner on the 22nd August 1934 (p. 11):
"The Director of the Zoological Gardens, Melbourne, wrote thanking the
board for permitting his council to obtain one pair of Thylacines in addition
to other specimens of Tasmanian fauna for inclusion in the new Australian
section of the zoo. The condition imposed by the board that the Thylacines
should be returned on demand was accepted. An order for two specimens
of Thylacine, in addition to other Tasmanian fauna, has been placed with
Mr. J. Harrison, of Wynyard, who has been granted a permit by the board
to forward specimens to the mainland".
Prior to Melbourne Zoo's instruction to Harrison to source the thylacines,
the zoo had attempted to purchase them independently by advertising in
the Tasmanian press:
TIGERS - wanted urgently. Pair or more, uninjured, preferably
young. Liberal price. Zoological Gardens, PARKVILLE, MELBOURNE".
Even for a man with Harrison's extensive contacts and resources, he was
unsuccessful in obtaining any further thylacines for the zoo.
An article entitled
"Tasmania's Beasts", published in the Muswellbrook
Chronicle of the 29th March 1934 (p. 5), refers to James Harrison snaring
a dozen "tigers" and "devils" near Cradle Mountain in 1934:
"Working in the dense forest near Cradle Mountain, in Tasmania, early this
year, J. Harrison snared about a dozen "tigers" (a species of marsupial
wolf) and "devils" (an animal resembling a large dog). Last month
he took a pair of each to the curator of the Melbourne Zoo, who paid him
£30 for them".
Despite the journalist's reference to the marsupial wolf, the "tigers"
that Harrison snared were in fact Tiger quolls (Dasyurus maculatus).