Prior to 1921, no council funding was allocated for the purchase of new
animals for the collection. Undeterred by these financial constraints,
McGowan proceeded to develop the zoo through donations and exchanges, and
further through the sale of excess stock to local animal collectors and
Australian zoos. At its height, the zoo exhibited over 90 different
species of mammals and birds.
William McGowan was known to have actively traded with six zoological societies
(Adelaide, Melbourne, Moore Park, London, Washington, and Madras) and had
a healthy export trade in live thylacines. McGowan also traded in
dead specimens - an adult female thylacine and her four pups were sold
to Museum Victoria in June 1909 and remain in the museum's collection to
The capture of a number of the zoo's thylacines is noted in the local press.
A juvenile thylacine destined for display at City Park Zoo is reported
in the Mercury newspaper of the 29th June 1886 (p. 2):
"A TASMANIAN TIGER: - Mr. J. H. Cleary brought to The Mercury Office yesterday
a three-parts grown Tasmanian tiger, which had been captured on Friday
at Bream Creek, on the property of Mr. F. Dunbabin, by Mr. T. H. Cleary.
The tiger, which was confined to a box, seemed quite lively, and was sent
up to Launceston last night by train, where it will form an important addition
to the collection of animals in the Public Park. Mr. Cleary stated
that tigers were at present plentiful in the Bream Creek district, and
were very destructive to sheep".
The Tasmanian of the
6th August 1892 (p. 26) reports on the capture of a thylacine destined
for City Park:
"On Monday a native
hyena was captured a few miles from Egmont by Mr W. Davis, who brought
it into Westbury before forwarding it on to the gardens in Launceston".
The Colonist newspaper of the 24th August 1889 (p. 21) notes the arrival
of a female thylacine with three pouch young at City Park:
"The superintendent informs us that he has procured a female Tasmanian
tiger with three young in the pouch. We understand that this is not
the first that has been caught with young, but hitherto they have not been
a success. It is hoped that this specimen will prove so, as it will
be a novelty not to be seen everyday".
McGowan's first recorded export of thylacines was to the Adelaide Zoo in
1885. In an article headed "Zoological" published in the Examiner
newspaper of the 12th June, 1885 (p. 2) it notes the arrival of two thylacines
at City Park destined for immediate sale to the Adelaide Zoo:
"The two Tasmanian tigers which were brought to town and lodged in the
garden attached to the caretaker's house, Town Park, were shipped on board
the s.s. Mangana yesterday en route to South Australia. Mr. McGowan,
the caretaker of the Town Park, telegraphed to the Director of the Botanical
and Zoological Gardens, Adelaide, stating that he had these two tigers
for sale, and stating the terms and asking if he would purchase them.
He received an immediate reply accepting the tigers on the terms named,
and they were shipped accordingly. They should reach Adelaide on
Monday next, and will doubtless form a pleasing addition to the zoological
collection in the garden there".
Of the fourteen zoos known to have exhibited thylacines, City Park holds
the record for having the greatest number of captive thylacines on display.
Paddle (2012, p. 85) states that 66 thylacines were displayed at the zoo
between 1885 and 1933. Paddle's estimate, however, is open to revision,
as the Mercury newspaper of the 8th July 1882 (p. 3) makes reference to
an earlier thylacine on display in 1882:
"In the cages, which are placed near the pavillion and off the main entrance,
are four Tasmanian eagles, four white hawks, several swamp and sparrow
hawks, eight owls and mopehawks, bronzewing pigeons and plovers, cockatoos
and parrots, English starlings and quail, crows and ravens, magpies and
jays, peacock and hens, guinea-fowls, Australian and Tasmanian laughing
jackasses, and a large emu. There are also in the cages an Adelaide
dingo, a native dog, an English fox, Tasmanian devils, tiger
and native cats, Australian bear, wombats, porcupine, forester kangaroo,
several brush kangaroo and wallaby, kangaroo-rats, black, ring-tailed,
and other opossums, rabbits and hares, a stag from Ben Lomond and one from
Cressy, and four monkeys".
This thylacine is omitted from Paddle's 2012 (p. 80 & 85) listing,
and consequently extends the period of display by three years. The
Thylacine Museum's preliminary total for the period (1882 -1933) is 76
thylacines, although it must be stressed that this is a "work in progress
total" and subject to revision as further research is undertaken.
With reference to the zoo's first thylacine, the Launceston Examiner of
the 10th May 1884 (p. 1) gives indication to a possible (though not proven)
"I was shown a very fine specimen of the native tiger to-day, at Mr. Tucker's
stables at the Corners. The animal has been recently caught by Mr.
Percy Tucker, who has chained him up in the stable, just as you would chain
up a dog. He tells me he is undecided whether to sell him or to break
him in to work sheep, though he thinks he might prove a little bit hard
for this class of work. The animal seems to take his captivity kindly
enough and to be in blooming condition. He is about the size of an
ordinary colley, but longer in the body and is beautifully marked.........
Mr. Percy Tucker who has caught other tigers alive at different times,
one of which was sent to Launceston a short time since. This last
captive was caught in a springer (set about a mile and a half from the
centre of the town) by the off forefoot, and it says something for the
ingenuity and nerve of his captor that he succeeded in releasing his prey
uninjured single-handed - taking him home and chaining him up as he would
his sheep dog".