Early Days at Auckland Zoo (1922-1945

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Talk presented at Point Chevalier Library 10 October 2013, for Auckland Heritage Festival, by Lisa J Truttman

Construction & layout It should be noted that the zoo from 1922 to the mid 1960s was much smaller than it is today. The August 1922 poll authorised a £10,000 loan to set up the zoo, construct the initial layout (still visible today) and purchase animals, principally from the remains of Boyd’s Onehunga Zoo (£800). Up to opening day, £12,270 had been spent. 10 returned servicemen were given employment planting the 1,150 shelter trees on the zoo boundary. A Sydney expert (the curator, Taronga Zoological Park Trust) was called in to plan the layout of the zoo. In the end, the layout plan was the work of the City Engineer, the Council’s Parks Superintendent, and L T Griffin, an asst. curator at the Auckland Museum.

It was stated by the Council in August 1922 that, on economic grounds, there could be only one entrance to the zoo (up at Old Mill Road), although the zoo in its original layout could have had two entrances (the other at Motions Road). Before the end of 1923, the tram terminus was way up at Grey Lynn, so this proved inconvenient for many who wrote in to the newspapers to complain.

“"Disgusted Ratepayer" states that hundreds of visitors to the Zoo have found to their disgust that there is no admission by the lower gate and a large percentage of these intending patrons would not undertake the journey of one and half miles to the upper entrance. It is, he states, cheaper to get to the lower gate, and from this point the sights are more easy of access, yet the City Council, with a total disregard of finance and convenience, is maintaining the top gate as the one means of entrance. "Disgusted Ratepayer" compares the management unfavourably with what one would expect under private enterprise.” (Star 4 January 1923)

They did open up the lower, Motions Road, entrance for a time during WWII to enhance attendance. It was all in the looks, as well as speed in constructing the city’s zoo in the shortest amount of time: bridges spanning the creek running through the grounds were of concrete construction, the widest incorporating steel span supports, then clad with bluestone to look like old English stone bridges from decades before. (Star, 8 August 1922) After having seen the zoo in Sydney, might I suggest, now that we are going to have one in Auckland, that the Mayor and City Councillors cut out the monkey house. But, if they must have cages full of these interesting but disgusting little animals, then for goodness sake let them be provided with trousers—the monkeys, of course, not the City Councillors. On second thoughts I mean both—no, that's wrong again. I mean all the monkeys and the majority of the councillors.—I am, etc., A. DARWIN-JONES. This November 1922 description of the lions den (now part of the tigers habitat): “The lions' den is situated toward the southern side of the area. It is a huge place, and in it are the rocks in their natural state, besides a number of native shrubs. The plan followed has been to cut off portion of a gully by three high concrete walls. On the top of the slope the sleeping quarters are being placed. Thus the lions will be able to prowl about a rocky face in full view of the people. The highest wall is about 20ft., but it will be possible to look down upon them if they choose to go to the lower places. Here, however, a great pile of rock has been built up, and no doubt the lions will promenade there after dinner, or from it watch for imaginary antelopes on the slope above. The arena is in every respect ideal for a lions' home. By immense labour, a roadway has been built up behind the concrete walls.” (NZH 22 November 1922)

And the bears areas (now the meerkats, red panda and otter habitats). “The bears will have two very happy homes. Similar plans have been followed so that the people may look down on the animals. The homes are in the shape of the sector of a circle. On the ground level are the dens made with concrete roofs to keep them cool. In the centre of each of the wide pits is a natural hillock of rocks, with slopes leading up to the "bedroom." So generous are the pits in area, and so substantial are the rocky hillocks, that a couple of bears who are not on speaking terms could very easily pass their days without seeing each

other except when weather conditions make it necessary to journey up the hill to the cool dens. They might meet on the way, but they could cut one another just as is done by some members of the human race, who have bearish tendencies. Should the bears prefer to be sensible and happy, and agree not to be annoyed by others having more buns in the bank than they, they will be able to enjoy life. In their kingdom there is plenty of room to run races round the rocks, to play hop, step and jump, or to put on a little play. Also, there is a good place for a boxing ring. Bruin's days should be long in the land under the conditions of life being prepared for him. It is possible that even in this paradise, he will eventually become disgruntled when, from the door of his cabin, he sees the far slopes, and perhaps the elephant having his solemn game with the children, but certainly nothing more could be done to do him well.” (NZH 22 November 1922)

Griffin, the assistant curator at Auckland Museum, having been brought into the preparation process from August 1922, was asked by Council to visit the animals still at Onehunga in order to report on what would be necessary to temporarily house them. As the animals now belonged to Auckland City Council, there were no more fines imposed by Onehunga’s Council. Taronga Park Zoo offered to be trustee for Auckland Zoo in procuring animals and holding them at Sydney while the zoo at Auckland was being set up.

While the layout originated from 1922, much of the rest of the zoo’s features date from just a bit later. The zoo was opened in very much an unfinished state. The large “flying aviary”, hippo habitat, elephant house and walk, polar bear and tiger arenas, and the original tea kiosk date from improvements over the 1923-1924 period, to plans drawn up by M K Draffin. The giraffe house was completed in 1925. A monkey pit (part of today’s orang-utan exhibit space) was added in 1927. Opening – and the first Auckland Zoo myth

The zoo opened Saturday 16 December 1922. The Dixieland Cabaret started a “Zoo month” from 30 November 1922, during which “The cabaret was appropriately decorated and special music was played”.

A report on the position at the Auckland Zoo was submitted to the City Council last evening, when the Mayor (Mr. J H Gunson) stated that the preparatory work was well advanced, and arrangements had been made for the initial collection of exhibits. All the available financial provision had been absorbed in the work authorised and practically completed. Despite the fact that the Zoological Park was in a very early stage of development, the Mayor said there was sufficient of interest to justify a visit by the citizens, and particularly the children. On Saturday admission would be free, when the Governor-General would officially open the Zoo at 3 p.m. (Auckland Star 15 December 1922) Despite the threatening weather and frequent light showers, numerous people journeyed to Western Springs this afternoon to witness the official opening of the new Zoo by the Governor-General. Lord Jellicoe, who was accompanied by Lady Jellicoe and suite ... The Governor-General made the official declaration of opening, after a short and pleasing speech of characteristic sympathy and humour. The National Anthem was then sung and the people dispersed for an inspection of the animals and grounds ... (Auckland Star 16 December 1922)

So, everyone knew that Auckland Zoo was opened on Saturday 16 December 1922, right?

Well, unfortunately, by March 1924 when Auckland City Council brought out their Municipal Record magazine, someone had written in it that the zoo opened on 17 December, not the 16th. The Parks Committee, not checking their own agendas, approved in August 1924 the placing of a commemorative stone at the Old Mill Road main entrance (just after Griffen had been appointed as part-time curator in May) – using the wrong date. That stone has since been moved into the grounds, with the error still not corrected.

Auckland City Council’s historian Graham Bush got it wrong in his book Decently and in Order, but Derek Wood in the Auckland Zoo history A Tiger by the Tail got it right. Unfortunately, at the recent 90th birthday celebrations for the zoo, they went with the wrong date in their press releases instead of the right one, and celebrated the birthday on the wrong day. I’m crossing my fingers for the centenary.

The Curators In May 1924, Louis Thomas Griffin was appointed as a part-time curator for the zoo, paid £250 per year. Griffin (1880-1935) was connected with the Auckland Museum from 1908, interested in natural history and zoology, an expert on NZ fish, and able to read Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Asst. Superintendent of Parks, T Aldridge, was appointed at the same time (replacing the zoo’s overseer, Malcolm R Capp, overseer from 7 February 1924), and he was based at the zoo. The control of staff and improvements came under Aldridge’s control. In September 1924, for 6 months, Griffin journeyed to South Africa and Egypt to acquire animals for the zoo. On Griffin’s return, the Mayor called T E Pearson (Superintendent of Parks), Aldridge and Griffin to a meeting to discuss duties. “Griffin to give all instructions in relation to animals of exhibits of any kind to Aldridge … Aldridge to co-operate with and carry out Mr Griffin’s requirements regarding the exhibits and … will direct the men and arrange their work.”

There was some friction with this arrangement.

In November 1927, a number of toucans suddenly died after a change in diet from boiled old potatoes to boiled new potatoes. Griffin laid the responsibility for the diet change and its consequences at Aldridge’s doorstep, and said so in a report to the Parks Committee. In December, he remarked on his directions regarding doubling the quantity of food to some exhibits to help them tone up being apparently disregarded. Things settled down, until June 1928 when Griffin reported more of his dietary instructions being apparently changed without his authority or disregarded. Aldridge asked to be reassigned, advising the Parks Committee that “his period of employment at the Zoological Park had not been a happy one,” and his health was being affected. He remained, though, until he was promoted to Park Superintendent in March 1930, and he attended Griffin’s funeral in August 1935.

The next part-time curator was Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Reginald Sawer (c.1880-1951), a former director of agriculture for the South African government, with particular attention to game reserves. He published papers in South Africa and Palestine, but also had knowledge of forestry management. His other responsibility therefore was the Waitakere plantations. He was considered as interim curator September 1935, and confirmed February 1936. He retired

November 1949.

Griffin started the consideration of the health of the exhibits with the instigation of necropsies performed by the Auckland Hospital’s pathology department to find out causes of death in the animals. Sawer extended this focus with special dietary regimes which included mineral supplements, and setting up an on-site research facility. Both men were keen to reduce expenditure within the framework of Council budgets and estimates, but the groundwork was laid for today’s facilities. However, there were two things they were powerless to prevent – the series of early deaths of the polar bears, right from the earliest imported, and the abuse of the animals by the visiting public. Vandalism to the animals Not all of the public treated zoo animals with respect. Even before the zoo opened, a sea lion was shot with a pea rifle December 15 while it was in the Domain pond awaiting transport to the new zoo. It died soon after arriving at Western Springs. Such abuse was rife, in an age where the public were allowed to throw tid-bits to the monkeys, bears and other animals as part of the entertainment. Two tuatara were found mutilated (“violently prodded with sticks”) by the end of January 1923. Coins, pieces of lead and a coil of wire were fed to one of the ostriches, who subsequently died of poisoning. “Notwithstanding all that has been published in the "Star” recently about cruelty to the Zoo animals, on Saturday afternoon I saw two boys throwing small stones at one of the big lions in the cages. "Just caught him a beaut on the nose." said one, and if he reads this maybe he will think of the reprimand he got. Whatever is wrong with the boys? Maybe when half the animals are blinded or maimed, this sort of thing will stop.” (Star 1 Feb 1923)

A “paradoxure” (animal related to civets) was “injured by a visitor with a walking stick” in October 1923. In July 1924, 2 agoutis, 2 civet cats, 2 baboons and a female zebra died after poisoning either with arsenic or a corrosive. Although it was reported that “a pretty close idea had been arrived” as to who did it, there was no arrest. Thomas William Arthur, a zoologist, was accused and charged, but later released.

One of the zoo’s early hippos choked to death after swallowing a tennis ball.

Escapes

The first appears to have a Tasmanian Devil, 29 July 1923. There were fears expressed for the fate of household chooks in Surrey Crescent. (It’s interesting that Tasmanian Devils are about to be reintroduced to the zoo). A sea lion was recaptured in the Whau Creek at the end of August 1924. In September 1925, a leopard from India escaped. This sparked a degree of panic amongst Aucklanders. Its carcase was found 11 October at Lady Bay near St Heliers.

In 1925 a secretary bird flew from part of the zoo beside the tea kiosk into the lions’ den, and was killed before it could fly out again. An agouti went missing amongst rocks, never found. Jamuna

She was presented to the Zoo by John Court 1923. Arrived 6 June that year.

A consignment of monkeys arrived on the same ship. Nine died en route, but one escaped on landing at Auckland, and was found hiding in a wardrobe in one of the officers’ cabins. It dodged out, scampered over the deck, fled down one of the ropes, and holed up on a rafter in a Kings Wharf shed. The monkey was finally captured 5 days later with the aid of a decoy monkey owned by a watersider, a banana, and a box with a trap door.

Jamuna stayed at the works depot beside the destructor at Freemans Bay until the elephant house was completed. In July 1923, Jamuna became impatient with her temporary surroundings.

From L T Griffin’s report to Parks Committee, 16 July 1923: “Jamuna broke out of stall on Sunday night sometime after 7 o’clock during the absence of Ater-Ali her mahout. She then proceeded to pull down the down-pipes on the various buildings, also sundry water taps, afterwards she proceeded to the Mahout’s room, broke the bolt off the door, and ate up all his flour, sugar, butter, milk, and everything else eatable therein. While she was busy at this, the nightman at the destructor blocked the passage way with some of the big carts and waggons thinking to limit her wanderings, but as she came back, she first tore a pipe and water tap off the side of the destructor house and broke the window of the men’s eating room, and then calmly and with the greatest of care shoved all of the waggons out of the passage, turning one over and damaging it. At this, all the night shift at the destructor mounted to the top of the boilers and stopped there pending assistance. Jamuna then proceeded to smack down the big double gates and partly succeeded. Ater-Ali her mahout returned at 10 o’clock and she settled down at once, and the night shift up on top of the boilers were released and returned to their duties.

“Ater-Ali seldom leave the Elephant, I must say he looks after her well from one week’s end to the other, but he tells me that when he is there the Elephant is very very good, but when he goes away, then she is very bad. He is dissatisfied with the stable she is in, and says he cannot be answerable for her in such a place. I have now ordered her to be chained fore and aft to the floor, and Mr Whelan is fixing the ring-bolts and making hooks for her chains which are to be ready tonight. The Mahout is quite satisfied with this arrangement.” Only 6 years old, she was assigned at first only to carry up to 4 small children at a time at the zoo, in a bright red saddle. A circular road with a tan bark surface was laid down, leading from Jamuna’s “temple”, each elephant walk 150 yards long. On 10 November 1923, the first rides given were to Marjorie Rogers of Devonport School and Jack Mulgan of Maungawhau School, who had won prizes in a competition. As part of the conditions of his gift of the elephant, John Court stipulated that Auckland children could have free rides on Jamuna for the first 12 months.

“When at last Jamuna was led from her stall, there was an expectant throng of adults and children waiting outside the elephant house. Very fit and well the young animal looked as she stood, a picture of docility, during the saddling operations. She has put on 7cwt. since her arrival in Auckland, and would doubtless be described now by experts as "in the pink." She

was specially groomed for her debut on Saturday, and being an aristocrat among elephants, wore a neat and becoming bandeau of blue paint across her forehead, finished off with an ornamental design which signified that she was a lady of very high caste. Her mahout, Ata-aAli, knows all about these things, and as he conversed with her on Saturday one could not doubt that there was a bond of understanding between the two. At the mystic word—it sounded like "Wychee" Jamuna obediently knelt for the saddle to be adjusted, and then there was a great heaving and strapping and buckling. “At last all was ready, and the children clutched their tickets in eager anticipation as Ali finally disappeared into the elephant house to don the gorgeous outfit that was to add the finishing touch to the picture. And then Jamuna was seized with the imp of mischief that abides in all young growing things; she gave one glance around to make sure the course was clear, and then off she went, waving her trunk in triumph. An assistant clung desperately to her ear, but Jamuna heeded him no more than a fly. The crowd, convulsed with laughter, scattered like leaves before the wind, and Jamuna, heedless of tan-bark tracks and prizeessay winners, and everything else, marched straight off down the path to a near-by swamp. Over the lawns she went, over the flowerbeds, leaving great gaps like shell-holes in the soft earth. A succulent young banana palm caught her roving eye and with one tug of her trunk she pulled it out and laid it neatly on the ground true Jamuna touch. “In the swamp she called a halt, sat down on her haunches, and was just starting a toothsome meal of watercress when an agitated mahout, backed by a noisy and mirthful throng, came charging down on her with shrill cries. His severe rebuke, strengthened by several jabs with a little shining weapon that looked like a cross between a boathook and a meat skewer, brought Jamuna to her senses, and it was a very subdued elephant that presently made her way back to the mounting stage with a piece of watercress trailing round her foot.” (NZH 12 Nov 1923)

Ali lost part of a finger some days later while feeding a peanut to Jamuna. It’s thought she mistook his hand for the nut. He was therefore the first reported human wounded at the zoo. Jamuna’s load was increased in Griffin’s recommendation from 70 children per hour to 100 per hour in June 1925. She died 4 September 1965.

Rajah Rajah’s story was quite different, and much briefer. One of a number of young elephants displayed at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924, he was shipped to Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo in 1925 as an unnamed elephant and dubbed Jumbo by late 1926. Trained to carry the howdah to carry passengers, he continued doing this without incident until the zoo decided he was uneconomic to keep in 1930. Auckland Zoo took him, and imported him in November that year, where he was renamed Rajah. But his time at Auckland Zoo from that point until he was shot in February 1936 was rocky, full of incidents from attacking his keepers to spitting at the public. My friend Liz Clark, studying the history of Auckland Zoo, has suggested that as a young male without behaviour-controlling older males around, went into adolescent musth cycle, complete with testosterone-fuelled moods.

The story that he had somehow always been hard to control, even in his Hobart days, has been set in concrete by Derek Wood’s book A Tiger by the Tail (1992). Wood, like Sawer before him, justified Rajah’s destruction on the basis of stories allegedly told to Sawer by Beaumaris staff, and the text of a letter sent to the Chairman of the Parks Committee in March 1936.

In fairness to you re: the criticism over the shooting of the elephant Rajah, I want to relate a little incident which I had often told my friends, but had not made public, as these things often lead to difficulties I would not be prepared to face. Three years ago while on a tour of N.S.W and Tasmania, I visited the Hobart Zoo. While there I got into a conversation with the head curator whose name I now forget. When he heard that I came from Auckland, he said “Oh you have got ‘Rajah’ there now, whom we once had here, but as he became dangerous, we had to get rid of him.” He told me a story of how a boy had put a lighted cigarette in Rajah’s trunk causing the animal such pain, that no child was safe near him that the curator asked of the headmaster of a school nearby, to send the children over each day and then he lined them up, each with a piece of bread, and with keepers held Rajah by means of ropes and pointed instruments, the children filed past and fed him. But being fearful of further outbreak, he was glad to get the permission of his Council to sell the beast to the Auckland Zoo.

After he had disposed of Rajah he received some illustrated papers from London, in one of which he saw a picture “of rogue elephant” chasing the keepers at the London Zoo and identified it as “Rajah”. I have not been able to visit our Zoo since my return owing to illness, but having been watching the papers to see if trouble was coming. But now I have felt compelled to write this in fairness to you and your assistants. Yours sincerely, L.J. Tremain (Miss) Animals were regularly destroyed for various reasons in zoos at the time, but this letter provided Sawer with a reason to put to those City Councillors watching his expenditure like hawks, and a reason for Rajah’s death for the public in general who may have felt uneasy about the affair. The “facts” in Tremain’s letter do not appear to have been checked, and do appear to be hearsay after-the-fact. So today, Rajah bears the stigma of being a “bad elephant”, something Hobart authorities “foisted” on Auckland like a used car with hidden faults. The Monkey and the hat “A child's screams and a loud chattering caused visitors at the Zoo yesterday morning to hurry to one of the cages where it was found that a small girl of about two years, whose curiosity had taken her too near to the wiring, had had one of her hands grabbed by a monkey. The animal had snatched at a brightly coloured woollen cap, which the child had been holding, and all the other occupants of the cage had swung down from the boughs and benches to watch proceedings. No time was lost in ma-king the monkey release its hold and the small girl, much frightened by her experience, was attended to by one of the zoo officials, her hand having been rather badly scratched. Within the cage the monkey which had caused the trouble wore an air of victory, being perched high up on a bench with the child's cap pulled half way over its head.” (Star 3 April 1926)

Reindeer In June 1927, John Court Ltd proposed to the Council that in return for supplying two reindeer to the zoo, that they had use to parade the animals before the next three Christmases for a week. The Council agreed to only one Christmas. One reindeer died just before mid

February 1929.

Shackleton’s dogs Shackleton’s dogs – one came via J J Boyd’s zoo (on loan from Government). Another (born during Shackleton’s expedition) was presented to the zoo Feb 1923 by a Captain White. By August 1923:

“ … the audience vanished at the outbreak of most mournful howling. It sounded as if a large pack of dogs had suddenly been overcome with a bad attack of moonlight. It was strange to realise that the same howling from the same dogs has broken the silence of Antarctica, and has echoed across Ross Sea, where New Zealand now holds sway over the penguins. The two Esquimaux dogs that led the chorus belonged to the late Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition in 1914-17. They are lively animals, the heavier one, which looks like a giant beaded collie, being a hail-fellow well met with all callers, and a most eager recipient of biscuits. His white companion is not so cordial. He will not stand against the bars and take an offering from one's hand. At feeding time the reason was evident. Despite his companionable attitude toward human beings, the larger dog is something of a tyrant over his mate when the meat arrives, and it is necessary to separate the two. The smaller dog knows the game. As soon as the other starts to gnaw it picks up the second piece and dashes into the den. The keeper immediately drops the door, and justice is done. Yet the same dogs are amazing in team work. They have toiled in the traces over countless miles in the service of men whose compelling instinct is to "go and find out." At work they have the heart of horses; when being fed their law is the law of the wild.” (NZH 10 Aug 1923)

Soon after this, it looks like a destruction order authorised by the Parks Committee on the Boyd dog was carried out. By August, only 1 dog was referred to in letters complaining of the lack of space, including one from the SPCA. In late September, this dog was removed from the zoo and placed in keeper Joseph Hurley’s care. It probably lived out its days at Hurley’s zoo staff cottage at 100 Old Mill Road.

Siamese cats The breed became popular in the British Empire around 1931. One very old Siamese cat on display at Auckland Zoo died in 1933. There was one Royal Siamese Cat on the animals list for the year ended March 1935. Around this time, Col Sawer decided that Auckland Zoo should enter into the field of Siamese cat breeding. According to a letter from Col Sawer to Mr Bon Moran in 1949, “In the year 1936 it was decided, as the local stock of these cats were showing the ill-effects of in-breeding, to forego the advantage of pedigrees and to introduce wild specimens directly from Siam. The result would seem to have justified the decision. Our first sire was named Shan 1 and his male progeny received the same sobriquet in sequence.” By the year ended March 1938, the zoo census shows three Siamese cats. A pair of Siamese kittens born 15 Sept 1938 was offered to Wellington, Singapore, Ceylon and all Australian zoos for £6. A total of four were born during the year, all sold. 2 cats died by either accident or disease.

A Miss E Bott paid £3 for one of the kittens April 1939, but it died immediately on arrival due to a chill from a draught on the train journey to Waipawa. She asked for a refund, but the Parks Committee authorised only 30 shillings.

By the year ended March 1939, the zoo was down to one Siamese cat. By March 1940, the numbers were back to 2 Siamese cats (one was purchased by the zoo). There were 13 cats by the year end March 1941. 16 cats had been born, another purchased, and the zoo sold 5. 12 more kittens were born in November 1941, all at £2 2s each. A total of 22 kittens were born in the year to March 1942. 14 more kittens were born to March 1943. As at March 1946, there were still 6 Siamese cats at the zoo.

In his 1947 report, Sawer described the local sale of kittens, guinea pigs, ornamental pheasants, Chinese silky fowls, pigeons and cage birds as raising income by £79. In 1948, the zoo census included 5 Siamese and 2 Persian cats. Another Siamese cat was purchased by March 1949, bringing the census up to 5 (plus the 2 Persians).

According to the national organisation for Siamese Cats: “Siamese cats were first seen in New Zealand in the early 1930s. They were considered to be such a novelty that the Auckland Zoo had a number of them on exhibition, and the Zoo was the main source of kittens in those days. The Zoo obtained "wild specimens directly from Siam" through agents

in Singapore. Stud service could also be obtained from the Zoo, but this practice ceased in the early 1950s by which time imports from England and Australia had arrived to widen the gene pool.” (http://www.nzsiamese.org.nz/siamese_information.htm) According to author John G Smithson, Auckland Zoo ceased sales around 1949, because they had been unable to import fresh stock for 9 years. However, in 1950 Sawer travelled to Melbourne and returned with a fresh Siamese stud. Local breeders had already gone to the expense of obtaining their own studs from England, so a letter was written to the Mayor of Auckland, who ordered Sawer and the Auckland Zoo to cease providing stud services. (A brief History of the Siamese and Oriental Shorthair by John G. Smithson) Coloured mice Inebriates who visit Auckland Zoo will get an unpleasant shock. They may not see pink elephants, but they certainly will see pink mice, furthermore, they win see piebald mice, black, blue, chocolate, silver, fawn, and cinnamon colored mice. If that is not enough, they may even see champagne-colored mice. One hundred and eighty mice presented to the zoo authorities are housed in 70 cages. They are descendants of 20 valuable stud mice imported three years ago. Similar mice have never been seen in New Zealand before. (The Mail 30 March 1940)

At the end of the early period The Zoo at the end of the 1930s had been affected with regard to variety of exhibits by financial restrictions from the days of the Depression, with increasing tightening of Council purse-strings. There was also the impact on a ban of animal importation from South Africa, one of the zoo’s main sources of fresh stock. World War II didn’t help either. Two porcupines from Canada were lost when the ship they were on was torpedoed. By the end of the war, with Sawer approaching retirement and import restrictions still in place, the low numbers in Sawer’s annual census resembled the numbers J J Boyd had at his Onehunga Zoo, four decades before. What happened next – would be the subject of another talk.