The live animal collection in City Park started in 1881. Most of the animals, as noted below, apparently being donated, and others were the result of exchanges with similar establishments. The first article gives a list of the animals that were exhibited the year after it was was established. By the time of the visit in the second article, they’d added a pair of native companions (brolgas) from Ballaraat and recently obtained a pair of leopards from Adelaide.
The native companions were what sent me looking, for I came across the letter from the Ballaraat council saying they were to be sent on the steam ship Flinders, and I wondered if they’d arrived. (Council correspondence: sometimes very interesting.) I’ve added some photos of the park in 2004 to break up all the text.
Messrs. B. P. Farrelly and H. Button are to be congratulated upon the success which has attended their persistent efforts to form a public collection of living specimens of natural history. When the matter was brought forward in the Municipal Council many months ago by those gentlemen, permission was granted to set apart a small portion of the Public Gardens for the purpose of a collection, and a small amount was voted for cages, etc. The action of the council was at the time adversely commented upon by many who considered that the collection would cost a considerable amount, in the first instance for cages and specimens, and in the next for maintenance, and that “the game was not worth the candle;” in other words, the collection would not be appropriate. In the first place, the cages cost a small sum, the whole of the animals and birds in the collection have been presented to the council, and the annual maintenance is covered, I believe, by between £20 and £25. That the collection is appreciated by the public a visit to the park at any time is the best evidence. I give a list of the animals and birds in the collection, which will show what energy on the part of the promoters and the hearty co-operation of the public have done at the North:
In the cages, which are placed near the pavilion 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, pea- cook and hens, guinea-fowls, Australian and Tasmanian laughing jackasses, and a large emu. There are also in the cage 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 Creasy, and four monkeys. Near the entrance from the Main Line Railway station there is an enclosure containing a large pond with a miniature islet in the centre. Here are to be found six black swans, Cape Barron geese, mountain duck, black duck, gulls, diver, native hens, baldcoots, platypus, etc. In the daytime the deer, emu, and kangaroo are placed in an enclosure where they find ample room.
A bright warm sunshine has succeeded the morning’s mist, intensifying the brilliant greenery of grass plotand shrub. Upon leaf and blade hang liquid gems born of the “blest power of sunshine, genial day.” The caged animals have come from the recesses of their dens, and lie against the bars in drowsy enjoyment of the welcome beams.
A few children have gathered at their favourite haunt, the monkey division, now tenanted by a solitary “Jacko” of the tribe, and the small spectators are in high enjoyment of this gentleman’s vagaries as he critically scrutinises the fruit scraps which are being showered at the bars of his prison house. This morning he is out of sorts, rejecting all friendly offerings, and evinces his displeasure by repeated boundings and clamberings to the top of the cage, from which he directs a succession of grimaces and chatterings at the outside world in general, and his would be child benefactors in If particular.
Within the deer enclosure is another monkey of strangely human appearance ; he has a grey beard and whiskers, and his hair is parted middlewise in unintentional burlesque of some of his evoluted outside relatives-a very simian Diogenes, who lies at the door of the tub kennel to which he is chained, and regards all things with cynical indifference. Such offerings as fruit peelings he scornfully ignores, nor will he remove the hand upon which he leans his head, even though a hazel nut rolls within tempting scope of his tether. From his chain’s radius he scares the venturesome peafowl with wry faces and malignant grinnings. Why has he been isolated? Possibly incompatability of temper unfits him for social or connubial monkey life; anyhow he is not a thing pleasant to look upon; and conducts himself with such a total disregard of the proprieties that even “Jacko” of the cage is a gentleman in comparison. Good by, Diogenes; keep to your tub, grin and chatter at humanity as you may, but please try to combine respectability with thy whimsical posturings, at least while ladies and children ate about.
Seedy and bdraggled looking this pair of eaglehawks. that sit mournfully in the corner partitioned from the emu paddock! I have seen this noble bird in his mountain fastnesses perched, an immovable object upon the summit of some isolated tor, looming against the bright morning blue, a picture of dominant life, or circling in the illimitable ether the highest embolient of perfect liberty; and what a contrast! Here is food for a sentimental outburst, but the theme has been treated by Sterne, and after the master’s “starling” there is nothing to be said.
Here are my old friends, the dingo, whose type is unmistakable, although this fine pair of half-breds is suggestive of the Esquimaux dog. “They kicks up a horful row o’ nights, sir,” remarks an elderly observer in reply to an inquisitive new chum, and from intimate acquaintance with the animal’s vocalism I believe him. I have seen the dingo, of which the reddish brown specimen here is a perfect type in every phase of existence over his wide continental range. I have seen him in packs, sleek and well-conditioned, during drought time worrying big game around the wasted and fetid water hole. I have observed his swinging s tireless canter over the soft black soil a plains in the flood season, when hanging like a sleuth bound on the fagging ” old man’s” freshening trail. I have watched him lurk in the long grass by the quail track until a round dozen of the plump, timid birds disappeared au naturel, leaving but a feather on the villain’s nose in evidence of departure sudden and swift. I have seen him “gaunt and red and hunger pressed” during winter in the mountains, sullenly loafing around the camp by day. light. He has gnawed my saddle and stolen my boots from under my head, and many a time has he chased sleep from my drowsy lids by his snarlings and howlings and bickerings, and therefore can I endorse the character given to him by our elderly friend as a nocturnal disturber.
Savage looking brute this marsupial wolf, tiger or hyaena as he is variously called! The last representative of the great marsupial carnivore doomed to extinction for he has gone to the mountain fastnesses before creeping settlement and even in these last retreats he is scarce-interesting as specially Tasmanian and of nearly obsolete existence. The Tasmanian devil lies by the cage’s front-a magpie or piebald specimen of his bedevilled tribe winking his bleary eyes and rubbing his black shiny mobile snout against the bars; an animal without friends which he reciprocates in his own savagely destructive way. Like the marsupial wolf he too is distinctively Tasmanian, and judging by analogy the end of his race is within measurable distance.
A new detached enclosure is now the home of a pair of leopards-lithe, handsome creatures-but surly of visage as characteristic of the tribe. The impersonation of graceful agility and stealthy motion, combining the greyhound’s speed with the lissom activity of the feline species, sulky and truculent though it seems yet the animal is easily schooled to bond its ferocious instincts to man’s will. Small chance for the timid, large-eyed gazelle upon whose body the cruel fangs of this carnivorous bel demonic have fastened. In our clime the animal’s coat lacks the silken sleek gloss which it possesses in torrid India, but mayhap it is but the annual change of garment which is a necessity of animal existence, and certainly the possession of a spring overcoat is good during the biting snow-tempered winds which now prevail.
Between dingo and devil lives a pair of foxes which pace the cage end nearest liberty with stealthy and rapid tread. Cunning reynard-whom Goethe has immortalised-frets and sulks and doubtless if permitted to follow the bent of his instincts would re pay the boon by levying requisitions upon the nearest lien-roost or farmyard. How readily he would adapt himself to altered circumstances in this fair land of ours and a fellow plague to our rabbit and sparrow. It is pleasant even to think that the early authorities in their unwise zeal in the direction of pest acclimatisation have drawn the line at foxes.
The avifaunal collection is sparse, although parrot and pigeon are fairly present. “The morning doves that sun their milky bosom on the thatch.” The ring-dove, crested pigeon, and bronzewing are, here a happy family whose whirring wings and gentle cooings are pleasant sounds even though unkind odours suggestive of the bird-shop are unhappily present. The “birds of Minerva,” morepork, and goatsucker, are here solemn and immutable as befitting their mythological associations. Poor Jack : the most widely-known and representative of Australian birds-the “settler’s clock” whose boisterous music heralds the day beam and chants the dies irae of waning light–bird whose ultra prosaic cognomen for ever flouts thy claims to a place in the realms of song. Poor Jack, thy prison chant lacketh the true ring even though the abnormal growth of thy lower mandible had not marred thy music besides giving to thy grotesque figure the likeness unto a winged garfish.
The golden pheasant and his modestly attired lady are here, a singular reversal of the order of things as they are among reasoning bipeds. “Pitty, pitty bird, oh how pitty,” prattles three-year-old maiden as she is lifted above the guard rail by–presumably–mamma, and participating by sympathy in the child’s enjoyment I stroll across the park to the aquatic birds’ department. The lord par excellence of this enclosure is the Australian flamingo or native companion, and he struts around the small serpentine with its insular rockery, apparently alive to the dignity “that doth hedge a king.” The black swans carefully avoid his long legged majesty in their limited coasting peregrinations, but otherwise pursue the even tenor of their graceful movements with placid serenity. This big wading flamingo is easily tamed. I have taken the eggs from the nest, which it builds on swamp or shallow lagoon by converting the tall reeds into a rush bottomed easy chair, and there, his long shanks resting on the weed covered bottom, the process of incubation is gone through. Tradition sayeth that when domesticated he has a weakness for babies’ eyes, and therefore by mothers in general he is not considered a desirable pet.
A solitary teal; two or three saucy scarlet eyed native-hens, a couple of gulls, a slaty wader, and a Cape Barren goose comprise the remaining tenants of the enclosure.