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Taronga Zoo old Taronga guidebook

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Chlidonias, 16 Oct 2014.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I found an old “Official Illustrated Guide To Taronga Park Zoo And Aquarium” in a second-hand bookshop the other day, and thought a description may be interesting to others. It cost me NZ$6 but the original price was one shilling and sixpence. The entry price for the zoo at that time was two shillings for adults and sixpence for children; the aquarium had a separate admission of one shilling for adults and thruppence for children. Now, I know what Australians are thinking: “Shillings? Sixpence? What the heck is a thruppence??! How old is this book!?“ Well, here's a clue – one of the photos inside is of Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt holding a koala.

    Actually the book isn't dated, but it must be around the late-1940s/early 1950s based on the photo captions. Via Google I discovered that Mrs. Roosevelt visited Taronga in September 1943 (and the koala scratched her neck and hand – she described the encounter with the marsupial as “unpleasant”). There is the giraffe pair High and Mighty with their offspring Taronga (who was born in 1939 and died in 1941; the male High died the next year), hippo Fatima with her baby Nero, and African elephant Chori who is described as being twelve years old (which would make the date of the guide book about 1949 because she was ten years old at the time of import). The caption says Chori is “the first African elephant to be exhibited in Australia”, so they must be deliberately forgetting poor Dumbo, imported as a six-year-old in 1947 and surviving just six months at the zoo. Chori was actually imported just a few days before Dumbo's death (in July 1947), and died in 1979.

    There isn't exactly a surfeit of information in the text of the guide, apart for a few nice snippets here and there (like the black rhino pair Ruby and Rupert having been “presented to the Gardens by a Sydney citizen”, and Taronga being “the only Zoo in Australia to have bred and reared” polar bears). So most of the interest lies in the photos of species no longer at the zoo, or no longer in Australia at all in many cases.

    The very first photos, on the inside cover, are of a trio of hyacinth macaws and a greater bird of paradise. Other birds are single-wattled cassowary (just called “cassowary” because the book doesn't believe in specifics), crowned cranes and Indian sarus cranes, black-necked swans and bar-headed geese, a flock of eleven flamingoes, African penguins, Pesquet's parrot, touraco, Bali starlings, green magpies (“cissas or hunting crows”), and of course kagus. The last two photos in the book are of a red-billed toucan and a pair of great hornbills.

    Amongst the photos of more usual mammals (elephants, lions, tigers, hippos, etc) there are also lesser kudu, a group of dorcas gazelles, and surprisingly a pair of babirusa.

    The map at the front of the book has some quaint touches (“men's lavatories” but “ladies retiring rooms”) and for some reason has a label for where to get hot water when at the zoo. That must have been an important consideration in the 1940s. Most of the animal names are generalised (antelopes, aviaries, eagles and vultures, that sort of thing) but picking and choosing there are also marmots (presumably prairie dogs), badgers, porcupines, “hares” (mara), gnu, yaks, springboks and “Prejevalski's horses”.
     
  2. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Nice review Chlidonias. What was on the cover, is it the cartoon of various animals?

    Taronga imported a flock of Chilean flamingos in 1955, so likely after this guide. Any idea what species they have in your book?
     
  3. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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  4. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    I have a couple of guides with that cover, but I'm not sure if they are all the same edition or not. I seem to recall someone sitting on one of the rhinos...
     
  5. Jabiru96

    Jabiru96 Well-Known Member

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    taronga guidebook.png
    Would this be the cover?
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    that's the cover, but as zooboy says I think they probably had several editions with the same front.
     
  7. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    I have a feeling there is a non-colour version of that cover too, but I could be wrong. Like just the line drawings on a single colour background.
     
  8. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    It's also nice that the species are all natives. Good of a zoo to focus on them, especially back then.
     
  9. Jabiru96

    Jabiru96 Well-Known Member

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    Nowadays of course the focus is on the giraffes 99% of the time because of the view.....
     
  10. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

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    I can remember seeing hot water points around old visitor facilities at beaches etc back in the '60's, and no longer in use then. I believe it was so people could make their own tea. Different era.
     
  11. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if the Black rhino pair mentioned were the founders of Taronga's breeding- they were quite successful with them for a time in the past.

    Also Gorillas and Orangutans aren't mentioned are they? I think the first Gorillas( about six) arrived in the 1950's.
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    actually an emperor bird of paradise. The caption simply said "paradise bird" and I wrote greater in my rough draft intending to check it later on the internet but forgot.

    I had a look again when I got home, and there are actually at least two greaters in with the Chileans in the photo. The Chilean flock was imported by Taronga in 1948 just before the bird import ban came into place (some sources say a flock of 20, some say a flock of 80); the greaters were imported by Adelaide in several batches, with the last two imports being in 1930 and 1933.
     
  13. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    in the photo, one of the rhinos is sitting down and a man in a spiffy suit (not a keeper) is using the animal as a chair to sit on while feeding the other animal which is standing.
     
  14. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    yes, the black rhino pair were Ruby and Rupert, imported from Africa in 1938 (the caption says they were presented by a Sydney resident, so I'm not sure of how that works). They bred many rhinos between the 1950s to 1970s. The last at Taronga were two females which went to Western Plains in 1991 (one had been bred at Taronga in 1958, the other had come from Perth).

    The first gorilla was in 1959 (well after this guidebook), and through the 1960s and 70s they displayed seven individuals. I haven't done details of orangutans in Australia yet so can't comment on them. However orangutan is labelled on the map next to the chimpanzees.
     
  15. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Taronga displayed at least one Black Rhino after 1991, I saw one there in 2005.
     
  16. Steve Robinson

    Steve Robinson Well-Known Member

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    The late, lamented Sir Edward Hallstrom.
     
  17. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I thought it was probably him, but didn't know for sure.
     
  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I disregarded that one but you are quite right. The two females which went to Western Plains in 1991 were the last ones of the continuous series of rhinos held at the zoo since the late 1930s. Then there was a break of about 15 years, then one of the males from Western Plains was sent to Taronga around 2005 for a couple of years to separate him from the females (so that when he was reintroduced to them hopefully they would all breed).
     
  19. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    'Man in a spiffy suit' I like that. :) Only Zoo directors and occassionally film stars used to be allowed this sort of privelige.;)
     
  20. Ara

    Ara Well-Known Member

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    As a kid I remember seeing Sir Edward with his "spiffy suit" covered in mud as he knelt, almost in tears, by the head of Taronga's fallen giraffe Jan, who at that time was the only male giraffe in Australia.


    It had been a rainy day , Jan had slipped and fallen, and couldn't get himself up. Keepers came from everywhere and one, Chick Cody (brother of the better known Dave Cody) managed to get a rope under Jan and by sheer manpower they got him to his feet.


    Sir Edward had his faults, but he put a lot of himself (and his money) into making Taronga a great zoo for its time.