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The Collection represents a live Natural History book with each family of animals as separate chapters. W. A. Holman, Premier of New South Wales, 1916
The first real action to move Sydney’s collection of animals from their squalid quarters at the intersection of Cleveland Street and Anzac Parade in Moore Park started around 1911. According to Fred Flowers, the Chairman of the Zoological Trust, the conditions at the old zoo were scandalous and … little short of a public nuisance. As for the housing of the animals, it practically amounted to inhumanity.
The Moore Park zoo had been formed with the help of the Sydney City Council in 1880 and while it had long been recognised as substandard, changes had to wait until funds and a new site were found. It took over thirty years before a new site, at Athol Bight, in Mosman was established. Additional funds were secured through the exertions of Mr. Davis, the Director of Public Works, Mr. Smail of the Water Board, and Mr. Keele, of the Harbour Trust. In 1912 Flowers planted the first tree on the site and it was renamed “Taronga Park”, which according to a contemporary Herald newspaper article meant ‘beautiful sea view’, in the local Aboriginal language.
The zoo which was finally opened on 7 October 1916 by Mr Le Soeuf, the Director, was based upon contemporary models set in Europe and America. The landscaping preserved the natural features of the landscape and the housing requirements of the animals were constructed, where possible, to the prevailing rock and tree formations.
Native trees and bushes were left in place to grow next to the palms and other exotics specially planted for the zoo. Iron bars and wooden walls were removed from many of the enclosures in line with the best practices of the day. Instead many of the animals were surrounded by a ditch and wall wide enough to keep the visitors safe while allowing them far more freedom than their old caged enclosures.
The Zoological Society of London, Henry Scherren, F.Z.S., 1905
Opening of the Taronga Park Zoological Gardens, October 7th, 1916 by the Premier of N.S.W., W.A. Holman, SLNSW ALMA, 590.7449441,
An Ideal Zoo, Mr. Flowers, Sunday Times Sydney, 17 September, 1916, p.19
The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, http://www.rzsnsw.org.au/history
Inauguration at Athol the Finest Gardens in the World, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October, 1912