Welcome back to Place I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’ve finally reached the end of the road. Z is our last stop, and today we’re heading of to Taronga Zoo, with its magnificent views across Sydney Harbour.
The Giraffes can look across Sydney Harbour to the Opera House.
Today, we’re hopping back in the time machine and switching the clock back to 2009 when we went to the zoo to celebrate our son’s 5th birthday with my parents. By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this very special birthday celebration and you can read about it: HERE. This was the kids’ first time to the zoo and my last, although Mum bought annual passes for herself and the kids, and a trip to the zoo became a special day out with “Mama”.
That’s where zoos become rather enchanting and it’s absolutely magical to see such a diversity of animals from right around the world almost within arm’s reach where you can almost feel part of their orbit. However, on the flip side, animals belong in the wild and deserve to be free. After all, I certainly wouldn’t want some other species to keep me in confinement for their own personal entertainment (even if I do sometimes wonder if that’s what the dogs are up to when I keep throwing the ball).
However, just to really confuse the picture, zoos have now become sanctuaries for endangered species and are running breeding programs. Animal habitats in zoos have also improved significantly over the years. I still remember seeing the orangutan’s in their previous caged enclosure at Taronga back when I was at university many years ago now, and seeing their sad eyes peering out between the gaps.
It is also possible that we idealise life in the wild. After all, it’s not free of predators, loss of habitat, food and water shortages either.
Thomas French addressed these contradictions in Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives:
“Despite all their flaws, zoos wake us up. They invite us to step outside our most basic assumptions. Offered for our contemplation, the animals remind us of nature’s impossibly varied schemes for survival, all the strategies that species rely upon for courtship and mating and protecting the young and establishing dominance and hunting for something to eat and avoiding being eaten. On a good day, zoos shake people into recognizing the manifold possibilities of existence, what it’s like to walk across the Earth, or swim in its oceans of fly above its forests—even though most animals on display will never have the chance to do any of those things again, at least not in the wild.”
― Thomas French, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives
Hand Prints & Paw Prints.
I also came across this from excerpt about a lion at the zoo:
“See this abdicated beast, once king
Of them all, nibble his claws:
Not anger enough left—no, nor despair—
To break his teeth on the bars.”
― Cecil Day-Lewis, The Complete Poems of C. Day Lewis
So, I’m not sure where that leaves us.
Indeed, perhaps it’s a good time to offer you a piece of birthday cake, or perhaps some pavlova?
Jessie the Elephant.
Meanwhile, I want to share an interesting story with you about the opening of the zoo back in 1916 and the challenges they faced moving the animals from their previous location at Moore Park in the city, on the other side of Sydney Harbour a good 15 years or so before the Sydney Harbour Bridge had been constructed and ferry was the only way across the harbour.
I’m not sure whether I should start a guessing competition to see which of the animals was the most difficult to relocate and why. However, it wasn’t the lions and tigers. It was Jessie the much beloved and only surviving elephant. Rather than paraphrasing, I thought I’d share the full story with you even if it does add significantly to the word count. It appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 10th November, 1911. It takes you away to another time and place, and if you’re anything like me, I’m always willing to travel.
REMOVING JESSIE. HOW IT WILL BE DONE.
THE NEW ZOO SITE. WORK. TO START IN JANUARY
The animals went in one by one – into the Sydney Zoo – but they will all go out together.
Presently they will be in the midst of packing up and moving. They are to have a new home. From Moore Park they are to go to Ashton Park, which is on the other side of the harbour.
The elephants went in one by one, and one by one they died, until today only one remains. Every Sydney child knows Jessie. She is one of the oldest inhabitants of the Zoo, having been there for 30 yoars. And the question is, How will she take this breaking up of the old home?
Jessie, the elephant, is not only the biggest animal in the Zoological Gardens, she is also the biggest problem in the way of “moving.” You can manage the monkeys and the apes, for they will do as they are told, you can open the door of the tiger’s cage, or that of the lion, and tiger or lion will walk obligingly into a portable cage, ready to be carried away; the crocodiles and the pythons present no insuperable difficulty, so long as they are handled with care. But you can’t put four tons of elephant into a cage – or, if you could, you wouldn’t be able to move the cage afterwards.
So Jessie will walk. It remains to to be seen how the airing will agree with her. She is not familiar with trams, or lorries, or motor cars. She has never paraded up and down our busy streets, and the strangeness of it all may not be to her liking. She is, however, a wonderfully good and sensible elephant, and it is not anticipated that she will give much trouble. But, in order to keep her in a good humour, she is to be given two nurses, who will walk one on either side of her – two of Wirth Brothers circus elephants if they are to be had. The only fear is lest evil communications may corrupt Jessie’s good manners, and lead to her running away to join the circus.
My What Big Ears He has!
A START IN JANUARY
Anyway this is not to be for some time yet. The decision to move the Zoo from Moore Park to Ashton Park – that magnificent stretch of natural bush lying between Whiting Beach and Athol Gardens – has only just been arrived at; but assuming that it is gazetted without undue delay, it is hoped to make a start in preparing the new home for the denizens of the Zoo in January next – building, surveying, fencing and cleaning. First, there will be a topographical survey and then part of the area – the site to be set apart for the Zoo is 60 acres in extent, the total area of the park being 140 acres – will be fenced, probably 40 acres of it. The other 20 acres will be kept as required for zoological purposes. As soon as the surveying and cleaning of the land has been completed, the laying out of the grounds will be proceeded with. Paths will be made, and the quarters fixed for the various orders of animals: and when the money is available the buildings will be erected.
The Government intends to do all it can towards making the Zoological Gardens of Sydney not only the first in Australia, but, ultimately, one of the first institutions of this kind in the world. Indeed, no other Zoo in the world can boast such a magnificent site as this one at Ashton Park. There are zoological gardens covering a larger area – as at Bronx Park, New York – but there is none as beautiful. It is proposed to begin with an initial outlay of £20,000 or £30,000, spread over a period of four years, and this is a modest enough beginning. ‘We must cut our coat according to our cloth,” said one of the directors yesterday. “In time Government and people will come to realise what a fine asset these gardens can be made.”
The council of the Zoological Gardens is fortunate in numbering among its members two such enthusiasts as Mr Fred Flowers (Chief Secretary ) and Mr Hoyle, M L.A , both of whom have thrown themselves heart and soul into this forward movement.
The natural beauty of the site will remain. From the harbour one will see no sign of habitation. No bricks, no red tiled roofs, will mar the beauty of the bush. There will be no high buildings. Nothing will be used except the rock which is lying there. Green trees and rugged rocks will be all that will meet the eye. There will be as little fencing as possible and wherever it is feasible sunken fencing will be introduced, leaving nothing to interrupt the view. Straight lines and all formality will be tabooed. There will probably be no flower gardens – only the natural features of the ground showing the Australian bush.
It is probably that there will be a special endeavour to make the new Zoological Gardens typically Australian, with masses of beautiful wattle trees, bright-flowering eucalypts and brilliant creepers everywhere in evidence. Here we shall be given to us a piece of Australian bush under the very best conditions. The creek running through the centre of the ground will become a fern gully, with an abundance of tree ferns, staghorns, and palms. We shall have birds’ nests in plenty. Lyre birds and many other Australian species will flit from bough to bough. Large ponds will be made by blocking the creek, and the ponds will be full of our water-lilies. Upon them and around them will be a multitude of birds, foreign as well as Australian.
Another advantage in not having flower gardens will be that many of our Australian animals, such as the native bear, the opossum and rock wallabies will have the run of the whole grounds, though there will be little sanctuaries for them to go into when the grounds are unusually full of visitors.
For the housing of the carnivora, the latest system of barless cages will be adopted, as in Hagenbeck’s world-famous gardens at Hamburg, There are natural rocky enclosures in the park, and these with little difficulty, can be made into large cages – walls of rock, with moats, are aimed at the different orders of the animals will be grouped together, so as to make the whole collection valuable from an educational standpoint.
The birds will be kept in large cages, enclosing trees. Instead of having one small cage for each species, a whole family of birds will be put into one large cage – all classes of cockatoos, for instance – and they will have ample room for flying among the trees. There will also be cages where many different species of birds will be seen together.
Three years ago the Director of the Zoological Gardens, Mr Le Souef, took a trip to Eugland and Europe, and visited the principal gardens. Speaking to a “Herald” representative yesterday, he said ‘The whole point of usefulness, as far as I was concerned, centred in Hagenbeck’s Gardens in Hamburg. I consider that the style adopted there must sooner or later be copied by every zoo in the world. It is a privately owned zoo. Like his father before him, Hagenbeck has all his life been dealing with animals, and he conceived the idea of this new type of barless cage that we propose to introduce in Sydney. It completely revolutionised all previous ideas of housing animals.”
MUSIC IN THE OPEN AIR
Mr Le Soeuf makes another interesting proposal. “All the gardens of Europe contain excellent features in the accommodation provided for out-of-door life” he said. “All the music and refreshments arrangements are out of doors. For instance, in the Berlin Gardens there were two magnificent bands, around which were about ten thousand chairs and little tables. The people go in there of an afternoon or evening, and drink beer or coffee while listening to the music. There are red tables and white tables, if you sit down at a red one it signifies that you drink coffee, if at a white one it signifies that you drink beer, It saves time and trouble – your coffee or beer is brought to you at once.
“Sydney has never had an opportunity of enjoying this kind of thing, and I would like to see it introduced in connection with our new gardens. In our climate it is exactly the thing required, instead of sitting in stuffy restaurants.”
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 10 November 1911, page 8
This brings me to the zoo today which is closed due to the coronavirus just like all museums, galleries and places where the public congregate and actually have fun. However, they’ve taken Taronga online and you can check out some of the animals on Taronga TV . I’m sure many parents have appreciated having the zoo online with the family kept at home on lock down. It’s a great idea, I’m just a bit surprised they haven’t featured our Australian animals. So, just to make sure you’re not disappointed, I’ve included a link to a koala talk at the Australian Reptile Park.
Anyway, on that note, it’s time for me to hit the sack. Actually, that time’s been and gone and it’s very late.
So, this brings the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge for 2020 to an end, although I think I might continue this series. I’ve really enjoyed it.