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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- ZOOS, CIRCUSES AND MENAGERIES -
MAINLAND AUSTRALIA (page 1)
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Mainland Australia:

    Four zoos within mainland Australia exhibited thylacines: Melbourne Zoo, Adelaide Zoo, Moore Park Zoo (Sydney) and Taronga Zoo (Sydney).

Melbourne Zoo:

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    Melbourne Zoo is Australia's oldest zoo.  It opened to the public on the 6th October 1862 at its Royal Park site, displaying animals that had previously been on view at the Botanic Gardens and then at Richmond Paddocks.  In its early years, the zoo's primary role was that of an acclimatisation centre for foreign animals destined in part for domestic release.  The development of the modern zoo started with Albert Le Souëf in 1870.  During his 32 years as secretary, then as director, Le Souef presided over the complete transformation of the zoo.

    The first thylacine to be exhibited at the Melbourne Zoo was an adult male that entered the zoo's collection on the 4th November 1864 (Moeller 1997, p. 159).  The likely source for this specimen was Ronald Campbell Gunn in Launceston.

    Paddle (1996, p. 216) describes the circumstances behind the zoo's next acquisition of thylacines, a family group, in 1865.  Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Müller was appointed Government Botanist in the Colony of Victoria in 1853.  Paddle (1996, p. 215) states: "At the request of Victoria?s Chief Secretary, Baron Ferdinand von Moeller convened the first meeting of the Committee appointed to administer Melbourne's proposed Zoological Gardens on the 24th July 1858".

    In May 1865, Ronald Campbell Gunn wrote to Müller, offering him a family of thylacines - a mother with three young.  Müller gratefully accepted the offer on the 20th May 1865, and received the specimens on the 16th June 1865.

    Müller writes: "I received your very kind letter of the 14th together with the 4 Thylacini in excellent health.  It is indeed a precious gift and I trust to fulfil now the wish of the Parisian Savants, who were so eager to secure this rare creature for the Jardin des Plantes.  I shall not fail to render known who is the real donor".

Melbourne Zoo - 1895
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Entrance to the Melbourne Zoo, 1895.
Courtesy: State Library Victoria.
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    Paddle (1996, p. 216) notes that the Gunn family group were placed aboard the Yorkshire bound for London on the 14th November 1865.  He continues:

    "How the Thylacine family fared on the journey, how many survived and where they went to on arrival in 1886 are, at present, unknown".

    In the Age newspaper of the 23rd January 1875 (p. 7), in an article entitled "Our Zoo", the thylacine on display in Melbourne is described as follows:

    "There is the marsupial wolf, a nasty looking animal that.  There is a cruel ferocious gleam in his eye that shows how remorseless it would be with anything it had the mastery of".

    In the Mercury newspaper printed in Victoria (not to be confused with its namesake in Hobart) dated the 15th May 1875 (p. 3), is an article on the Melbourne Zoological Gardens in which the thylacine enclosure is whimsically mentioned:

    "The visitor will now approach some Barrabandi parrokeets of the Murray River, having beneath them, a cage occupied by a kangaroo rat, or Bettongia cuniculus of Australia.  The adjoining compartment is bisected into two divisions one above the other; the uppermost contains a variety: of parrokeets, and beneath them is a cage tenanted by a fine specimen of the Thylacinus cynocephalus, the marsupial wolf, or native tiger, of this country.  The creature has two apartments appropriated for its exclusive accommodation, and, consequently, is much better provided for than was Dickens' Mr. Dick, whose grievance was that he was compelled to live in a room, where he had not sufficient space to swing a cat"..

logo of the Zoological Society of Victoria - 1858
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Logo of the Zoological Society of Victoria -1858.
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plan of Melbourne Zoo - 1893
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Plan of Melbourne Zoo, 1893.
Two thylacines were housed at this time in the wolf house (marked in red and numbered 24 on the plan).  View an earlier plan of the zoo from an 1875 guide, and a later plan from 1922.
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    Melbourne Zoo exported more thylacines than any other mainland zoo.  A combined total of 15 thylacines were sold or exchanged with London, Cologne, Antwerp and Paris (see table below).  The only other mainland zoo to have exported thylacines was the Adelaide Zoo.  In 1886, a pair of thylacines was exchanged for stock with the Madras Zoo in India (Paddle 2012, p. 85).
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Thylacines exported from the Melbourne Zoo
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Date of arrival A/J/P Sex Quantity Sold / exchanged Price
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1865 A/P A [F] / P [?] 4 Destined for London (fate unknown)
1883 A M / F 2 Destined for London (died in transit) N/A
(Jan) 1884 A M / F 2 Transit London (19/3/1886)
Arrive Paris (17/4/1886)
Exchanged for £90 of stock animals
1888 A M / F 2 London (30/6/1888) Exchanged
1891 A M / F 2 London (28/4/1891) Sale
(Dec) 1902 A M 1 Destined for Antwerp (Jan 1903) (died in transit) N/A
(Jan) 1903 A M 1 Cologne (26/3/1903) £20
1912 A M 1 Antwerp (6/2/1912) Sale
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A/J/P Adult / Juvenile / Pup
Short dates are formatted Day/Month/Year.
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(Research on this listing is ongoing and further information will be added as it becomes available.)
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References
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back to: Tasmania (page 10) return to the subsection's introduction forward to: Mainland Australia (page 2)


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