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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- ZOOS, CIRCUSES AND MENAGERIES -
TASMANIA (page 1)
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    Michael Sharland, writing in 1941, states:

    "The thylacine does not take kindly to captivity, and no zoo has had much success with it. It is inclined to sulk, then go off its food, quickly to fall ill and then die".

    Thylacines, like many other large carnivorous mammals, were exhibited in zoos, circuses and private menageries.  Unlike the lion (Panthera leo) or the tiger (Panthera tigris), which have been displayed in menageries since pre-Roman times, the history of the thylacine in captivity spans just over 100 years.  The earliest known published account of a thylacine on public display is that which appeared in The Hobart Town Courier on the 24th September 1831 (p. 3):

    "A beautiful specimen of the male TIGER of Van Diemen's Land, is now to be seen at George Marsden's Livery Stables, (opposite to Mr. Swan's) Elizabeth Street.  No live Tiger has ever been exhibited or seen in Hobart town before".

London Zoo - 1909
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A crouching female thylacine at the London Zoo (1909).  This thylacine was purchased from Mrs. Roberts (Beaumaris Zoo [SB]), and was resident at the London Zoo from the 12th March 1909 until she died on the 5th June 1914.  A total of 20 thylacines were exhibited by the London Zoo between 1850 and 1931; more than any other zoo outside of Australia.
Other photos of this individual: 1, 2, 3, 4.

    Between 1850 and 1936, thylacines were widely exhibited in zoos throughout Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, North America and India.  Historically, various estimates (Guiler 1985, Edwards 1996 [ZSL only], Claude 1996, Moeller 1997) have been made regarding the number of thylacines displayed in zoos, the most recent being that of Dr. Bob Paddle (2012)..

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 Thylacines displayed in zoological gardens [totals]
 Source: Thylacine Museum
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 Beaumaris [Hobart] [SB 16 & QD 29] 45      Estimate
 City Park Zoo [Launceston] 66      Estimate
 Adelaide 22      Estimate
 Melbourne 48      Estimate
 Sydney [Taronga] 1      Actual
 Sydney [Moore Park] 2      Estimate
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 Australian totals 184
 Estimates after Paddle (2012)
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 London 20      Actual
 Antwerp 1      Actual
 Berlin 4      Actual
 Cologne 2      Actual
 Paris 2      Actual
 Bronx [New York] 4      Actual
 National [Washington, DC] 5      Actual
 Madras* 2      Actual
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 International totals 40
 After Guiler, Moeller, Edwards [ZSL only], Paddle*
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 Combined total 224
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    When attempting to make an accurate assessment of the total number of thylacines displayed in zoos, it is essential to distinguish between animals obtained directly from the wild and those sourced from other zoos.  With previous estimates, this consideration was rarely taken into account, and resulted in an exaggeration of the true numbers.  Most present day authors are in agreement over the numbers of thylacines displayed in British, European and North American zoos.  Discrepancies arise when looking at estimates for thylacines displayed in mainland Australian and Tasmanian zoos.  Dr. Bob Paddle (2012, p. 85) quotes the following totals for Australian zoos: Melbourne: 48, Launceston City Park: 66, Sydney: 3 (Moore Park: 2 & Taronga: 1), Adelaide: 22 and Hobart at both its Sandy Bay and Queen's Domain locations: 45, giving a combined total of 184 thylacines (see table above).  These totals, however, are somewhat deceptive in that they do not reflect regional purchases and exchanges of thylacines between zoos.  Based on the Thylacine Museum's own research, with greater estimated totals for the displays at City Park [76], Melbourne [57], and Moore Park [5], a more realistic estimate for the total number of thylacines displayed in Australian zoos would be 203 animals, with 51 of this total (25%) being transfers, exchanges or purchases between zoos.  This equates to a total of 152 thylacines being wild caught (see table below).
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 Thylacines displayed in Australian zoos [totals]
 Source: Thylacine Museum
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 Zoo Wild caught (snarer, dealer, or primary purchaser) Inter Zoo TEP Total
 Beaumaris (Sandy Bay) 14 [88%] 2 [12%] 16
Beaumaris (Domain) 28 [97%] 1 [3%] 29
 City Park (Launceston) 76 [100%] 0 [0%] 76
 Melbourne 36- 4* = 32 [60%] 21 [40%] 53*
 Adelaide 0 [0%] 23 [100%] 23
Moore Park (Sydney) 2 [40%] 3 [60%] 5
Taronga (Sydney) 0 [0%] 1 [100%] 1
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 Australian total 152 [75%] 51 [25%] 203*
* Zoo bred deducted from Melbourne total.
TEP = Transfer / Exchange / Purchase
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    Paddle (2012) correctly states that the Launceston City Park Zoo had the largest collection of thylacines on display, but the majority of these animals were transient residents waiting until a suitable purchaser could be found.  The zoos in Melbourne and Adelaide, for example, sourced a significant number of their thylacines from City Park Zoo.  Unfortunately, a definitive account of the movement of thylacines between Tasmanian and mainland Australian zoos is not possible, as records are either incomplete or no longer exist.  Where records do exist in the form of the minutes of the various zoological societies, sparse attention was often given to recording the sale, exchange or purchase of thylacines for the zoos. For example, the minutes of the Zoological Society of Victoria for February 1905 simply notes: "Stock purchased - Tasmanian tiger", giving no reference to the thylacine's sex, age or source.  The arrival of other thylacines did not warrant even those few short words.

    In the absence of zoo records, historical newspaper articles can often be of value in filling in the missing gaps.  In an article entitled "Tasmanian Fauna"  that appeared in the Mercury newspaper of the 5th October 1910 (p. 4), the number of thylacines procured for the Beaumaris Zoo (SB) between 1908 and 1910 is noted:

   "Mrs. Roberts, of Beaumaris, has shipped to Melbourne for transhipment to the London Zoological Gardens, a pair each of Tasmanian tigers (Thylacinus cynocephalus) and devils (Sarcophilus satanicus).  Mrs. Roberts has been fortunate in procuring no less than seven tigers (a mother and three young ones being included) from October, 1908 to June, 1910.  Of these, five have been shipped to the London society, and the remaining two it is expected will stay permanently at Beaumaris.  Tigers and devils are most difficult to obtain alive, being frequently injured when captured, and, in consequence, have to be destroyed".

    Guiler (1985, p. 55) lists only one of these seven thylacines - that of the Blackwood capture of the 18th June 1910.  A search of Tasmanian newspapers between 1908 and 1910 has enabled the remaining six thylacines to be identified.

    The arrival of the first thylacine at Beaumaris is documented in an article in the Mercury newspaper of the 7th October 1908 (p. 4):

    "All who are interested in the fauna of Tasmania will be glad to know that the marsupial wolf captured at the Dee arrived safely at Beaumaris last evening.  It is a female, and has been captured without the slightest injury.  Specially well-adapted quarters have been prepared, and she has settled quietly in them.  It is the intention of Mrs. Roberts to forward the animal to the London Zoo".

    This article not only tells us the sex of the thylacine, but also its place of capture and date of arrival at the zoo.

    The arrival of a second thylacine at Beaumaris sometime between mid-October 1908 and mid-January 1909 is noted in an article in the Mercury of the 14th January 1909 (p. 3): 

    "Many persons who have been awaiting an opportunity to see the Tasmanian tigers may be pleased to know that they will be on view on Saturday afternoon next.  It is rarely that these animals are captured alive, and all who take an interest in our marsupials should not miss this chance, which may never occur again".

    The arrival of the next four thylacines is reported in an article in the Examiner newspaper of the 7th July 1909 (p. 7):

    "Calling at Woolnorth en route, the Gladys took aboard four live native tigers, as they are familiarly termed, although bearing no affinity to the feline family.  The animals (female and half-grown cubs) were enclosed in a strong cage, and attracted a number of visitors on Sunday last.  The beasts were transhipped to the s.s. Taoroa, having been purchased by a Hobart resident for, it is said, the sum of £20 - another convincing proof of the wealth of our undeveloped natural resources".

    These three newspaper articles highlight the importance of non-zoological sources in identifying missing or additional thylacines in the zoo record.

    Internationally, Paddle (2012) estimates the total number of thylacines displayed in the fourteen zoos known to have exhibited the animals at 224.  This figure excludes thylacines held in private menageries, circuses, and dealers in wild animals.  Once again, these totals do not reflect the movement of thylacines between zoos.  Both the London and Melbourne zoos acted as transit points for thylacines on route to other destinations.  Consequently, within the international total there are thylacines that are recorded twice and in some cases on three or more occasions. For example, a male and female thylacine exhibited at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris between 1886 and 1891 came originally from Melbourne Zoo, and were held in transit for several weeks at London Zoo before being transported to their final home in Paris.  Consequently, this pair of thylacines account for 6 of the 224 animals displayed as they are listed in the records of all three zoos.  Based on the Thylacine Museum's own research, a more realistic count of the total number of wild caught thylacines displayed in all zoos is likely to have been closer to 165 animals (see table below).  Of the 243 thylacines on display, 78 (32%) were transfers, purchases or exchanges from other zoos (243 - 78 = 165).  Once again, it must be stressed that this is a provisional estimate and subject to review as research continues.

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 Thylacines displayed in zoological gardens [consolidated totals]
 Source: Thylacine Museum
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 Zoo Wild caught (snarer, dealer, or primary purchaser) Inter Zoo TEP Total
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Australian total 148 [74%] 51 [26%] 199
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London 7 [35%] 13 [65%] 20
 Paris 0 [0%] 2 [100%] 2
 Berlin 3 [75%] 1 [25%] 4
 Cologne 1 [50%] 1 [50%] 2
Antwerp 0 (0%) 1 (100%) 1
Washington 0 (0%) 5 (100%) 5
New York 2 [50%] 2 [50%] 4
Madras 0 [0%] 2 [100%] 2
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 Non-Australian total 13 [32.5%] 27 [67.5%] 40
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Combined totals 165 [68%] 78 [32%] 243
* Totals exclude thylacines that died in transit or were dead on arrival.
TEP = Transfer / Exchange / Purchase
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References
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return to the subsection's introduction forward to: Tasmania (page 2)


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