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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- ZOOS, CIRCUSES AND MENAGERIES -
(page 1)
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    Thylacines, like most other large carnivorous mammals, were exhibited in zoos.  Unlike the lion (Panthera leo) or the tiger (Panthera tigris), which have been displayed in menageries since pre-Roman times, the history of captivity for the thylacine spans just over 100 years.  The earliest known account of a captive thylacine is that which appeared in The Hobart Town Courier on the 24th September 1831:
 
    "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".

    Between 1850 and 1936, thylacines were widely exhibited in zoos throughout Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom and North America.  Historically, various estimates (Guiler 1998, Moeller 1997a, Edwards 1996, Claude 1996) have been made regarding the number of thylacines that were displayed in zoos, the most recent being that of Paddle (2000a). 

London Zoo - 1909
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A crouching thylacine at the London Zoo in 1909.  A total of 20 thylacines were exhibited by the London Zoo between 1850 and 1931; more than any other zoo outside of Australia.  The zoo's last thylacine, a female, was resident from 26th January 1926 until her death on the 9th August 1931.  She was the last living thylacine to be seen outside of Australia.
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 Thylacines displayed in Zoological Gardens [Totals]
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 Beaumaris [Hobart] [SB & QD] 28      Estimate
 City Park Zoo [Launceston] 62      Estimate
 Adelaide 17      Estimate
 Melbourne 44      Estimate
 Sydney [Taronga] 1      Actual
 Sydney [Moore Park] 2      Actual
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 Australian Totals 154
 Estimates after Paddle (2000)
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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
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 International Totals 38
 After Guiler, Moeller, Edwards
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 Combined Total 192
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    When attempting to make an accurate assessment of the total number of thylacines held captive in zoos, it is essential to distinguish between those animals sourced from the wild and those sourced from other zoos.  With previous estimates, this consideration was not always taken into account, and resulted in a distortion 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.  Bob Paddle (2000b) quotes the following totals for Australian zoos: Melbourne: 44, Launceston City Park: 62, Sydney: 3 (Moore Park: 2 & Taronga: 1), Adelaide: 17 and Hobart at both its Sandy Bay and Queen's Domain locations: 28, giving a combined total of 154 thylacines.  The Thylacine Museum's own estimate for Australian zoos is somewhat higher, at 173 thylacines.  Both of these totals, however, are somewhat deceptive in that they do not reflect regional purchases and exchanges of thylacines between zoos.
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 Thylacine Museum estimates for thylacines displayed in Australian zoos
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 Beaumaris [Sandy Bay] 18     Estimate
 Beaumaris [Queen's Domain] 19     Estimate
 City Park Zoo [Launceston] 62     Estimate*
 Adelaide 17     Estimate*
 Melbourne 54     Estimate
 Sydney [Taronga] 1     Actual
 Sydney [Moore Park] 2     Actual
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 Total 173
 * Paddle's estimate accepted
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    Paddle accurately states that the Launceston City Park Zoo had the largest collection of thylacines on display, but many of these animals were in effect temporary residents until a suitable purchaser could be found.  The zoos in Melbourne and Adelaide sourced the majority of their thylacines from the City Park Zoo.  It is not surprising therefore that the combined total of thylacines that Paddle quotes for these two zoos is near to the total number of thylacines displayed at City Park.  Unfortunately, a definitive account of the movement of thylacines between mainland Australian and Tasmanian 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.  The minutes of the Zoological Society of Victoria dated 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 words.  Bearing these considerations in mind, a more realistic estimate for the total number of thylacines held in Australian zoos would be in the range of 95 - 100 animals.  This equates to approximately 40% of the total being sourced from other zoos rather than being wild caught.  In the absence of zoo records, historical newspaper articles can sometimes be of value in filling in the gaps.  In an article entitled "Tasmanian Fauna"  that appeared in the Mercury newspaper of the 5th October 1910, 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".

    Prior to the disclosure of a seventh specimen in this article, six specimens were noted on the list of thylacines purchased by the Beaumaris Zoo (SB) for these dates.

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No. Date Year Sex Place of Capture Supplied by: Cost
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1 06-Oct 1908 F Dee ?
4 Jan 1909 F + 3 pups Woolnorth ?
1 18-Jun 1910 ? Fingal A. Blackwood £8
1 ? ? ? ? ? ?
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7 TOTAL
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References
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return to the section's introduction forward to: Zoos, Circuses and Menageries (page 2)


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