Dumbo - Australia's First African Elephant

B. 1940 – D. July 1947

Dumbo Australia's First African Elephant at Taronga Park Zoo 12 January 1947
- Image Sydney Morning Herald 13 January 1947
DUMBO 1940 - 1947

The first African elephant ever to be shown in Australia was on view at Taronga Park
Zoological Gardens yesterday. It is a six-year-old, and is not yet five feet high. The
elephant arrived last week. Most of the animals and birds which arrived in the same
ship arc still in quarantine.
-Sydney Morning Herald 13 January 1947
In 1946, several members of the Taronga Park Trust, from Sydney, Australia, spent
several months travelling around the African Continent in search of new animals to
stock their growing collection.


Four Sydney men, the secretary of the Taronga Park Zoo, Mr. H. B. Brown, Mr.
Hargreaves, Mr. E. J. Hallstrom, and Mr. W. Turner, collected this record "bag" on an
eight months' trek. They went through Swaziland, Portuguese East Africa,
Tanganyika, Kenya, and Uganda, buying from the hunters and trappers, who brought
their jungle catches into large bases.
- Sydney Morning Herald 18 December 1946
During a visit to the Belgian Congo in 1946 (now The Democratic Republic of
Congo) the men came across the only elephant training school in Africa. They
purchased a 6 year old as yet unnamed African Bush elephant (Loxodonta africana)
from the school -

Image from The Australian Woman's Weekly 8 February 1947
Article title 'Zoo Baby from Africa's only Elephant School'
The elephant was bought from a special elephant training farm in the Belgian Congo.
Run by the Bel gian Government, it is the only one of its kind in Africa. Each
February officials, with about 60 native boys, go out to catch young elephants.
They take with them a number of trained monitor or mother elephants, who are
turned loose among the young ones and head them off for catching.
Taken back to the farm, the babies undergo a rigorous six months' course of


They lead a strictly regimented day-morning bath in the river, lessons, a period out at
pasture, and another bath at night.
During this time they learn to lie down and rise at word of command and to know the
human voice.
The monitors stay with them throughout training, assist backward babies who either
won't lie down or get up by applying their trunks and tusks.
The motherly monitors think nothing of bringing a troublesome kindergartener to heel
with a good firm slap from their trunks, Mr Brown says.
Each night the tethered elephant lines are visited by an old hippopotamus who comes
up from the river, inspects the babies, and everything to his satisfaction, goes back as
silently as he came.
- Australian Woman's Weekly 8 February 1947
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the 18 December 1947 that the ship carrying
some 1,000 birds and some 75 animals had left Mombasa on the previous Sunday as
was headed for Australia with special attendant Em. Hargreaves on board. By 28th
December the Swedish ship Mangarella had berthed at Freemantle, Perth ( Sydney
Morning Herald 28 December 1946) later arriving at Mebourne bound for Sydney

MELBOURNE, Mon. - The Swedish vessel Mangarella which arriv ed in Melbourne
today assumed the character of a modern Noah's Ark after calling at Mombassa, East
Africa, on the voyage from Gothenburg. The vessel called at the African port to load a
valuable cargo of animals, birds and reptiles for the Taronga Park zoo, Sydney.
The collection of wild life ranged from finches to a seven-year-old African elephant,
the first of its kind to be brought to Australia.
- The Mercury 7 January 1947
With the arrival of so many species all at the once the zoo found itself short of cages
and space and thus had resorted to cutting the enclosures down in size to acommodate
the new arrivals. And with it the Sydney Morning Herald was pleased to announce
The young elephant that has just arrived is the first one the Zoo has had from Africa but it will be no time before you will be able to ride him. He is only seven years old,
and an elephant takes 15 years to grow up
- Sydney Morning Herald 22nd January 1947


Taronga Park is the ideal place to spend the Holiday Attractions Include new
arrivals Just received from Africa-Whale headed Stork, Secretary Birds, Baby
Ostriches, African Elephant, Rhinoceros, Cheetahs, Bat eared Foxes, and many
others. All picnic requirements available lunch and aitcmoon tea served In
attractive Tea Rooms Travel by Ferry
- Advertisement Sydney Morning Herald 27 January 1947

'Dumbo' The much loved character from the Walt Disney of the same name
Image by the kind courtesy of Walt Disney Clipart
Named for the cartoon Walt Disney movie character, 'Dumbo' as he was now named
spent a very short life being one of the main attractions at the Taronga Park Zoo.
However by late June/early July of 1947 the young elephant was showing signs of
illness. On 14 July 1947 Dumbo the African Bush Elephant died he was around 7
years old at the time
SYDNEY, Sunday.
A Belgian Congo ' baby elephant, which was at Taronga Park, died today after an
illness lasting some weeks. It is one of the moSt difficult animals to rare in captivity
and, had it lived, it would have been the first animal of its kind to have lived in
captivity anywhere in the world.
- Canberra Times 14 July 1947
A post mortem would later show the elephant had died of an undisclosed congenital


Dead elephant could not have lived long
Dumbo, the Taronga Park Zoo elephant, worth £1,000, which died on Sunday, was
internally deformed, which meant that he could not have lived long. This was
discovered at a post-mortem examination today.
It was explained that Dumbo had not been insured because the rate of loss among
animals was low.
-The Argus 16 July 1947

- Compiled and researched by Liz Clark 20 February 2011


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