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Issue 1 April 2011
Stories of the long since forgotten animals formerly in our Australasian Zoos and Circuses
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A TALE OF TWO LEOPARDS
In September 1925 a female Asiatic Leopard made her escape
from Auckland Zoo. The hunt for the missing leopard caused
Auckland residents to sleep uneasily for almost a month while
the authorities search in vain for their quarry. 25 years later, in
1950, a second female leopard also made her dash for
On September 17 1925 news broke across the nation
that a leopard, was missing from her enclosure at the
Auckland Zoo, and had been for at least a day or so
before the news had been released.
searched Standing at the end of a ridge, the tannery is practically isolated, and on both sides of the ridge the ground falls
away rapidly, and. except on top is covered with scrub and
other growth forming a jungle thick enough to hid a whole
family of leopards. It was thought, however, that a runaway
A young female leopard, which arrived last week from India which does not like daylight and prefers to do her foraging
for the Auckland Zoo, has escaped from her den, but it is not after dark would be sure to be hiding under the (tannery
yet known whether she is lying concealed in the grounds or buildings, which at the back are well off the ground, leaving'
has managed to get out of the Zoo enclosure. The animal
quite a lot of room between it and the floor. Two fowling
was not seen in the den yesterday afternoon when an atten- pieces and a repeating rifle formed the armoury of the
dant visited it to feed her and her mate, but little notice was
search party and in addition there were half a dozen
taken of her non-appearance; then, as it was thought she
was keeping out of sight.
A few men braved the risk of getting in under the boards
This morning, however, it was discovered that she had
of the tannery with torches to see if there was any trace
disappeared' from the den and a search of the grounds was
of the missing leopard
immediately organised, but without any success. Whether she
has escaped from the precincts of the Zoo or not is not yet
when one is assured that the leopard; is a more or
known, but at a late hour to-night she had not been located. less gentle sort of animal, and will not attack human beings
unless at bay, it must require a certain amount of pluck to
- Evening Post 18 September 1925
take a torch in your hand, and so rummaging, about in the
dark under a tannery floor, and when not quite sure of the
correct attitude of leopards at bay. Nevertheless, the
Immediately the residents of Auckland were all in a
searchers dived in between a couple of broken boards and
panic, wondering just when the spotted peril would leap thoroughly ransacked the supposed hiding place. Evidently
out and grab them as they passed by.
some of them had every faith in the amiability of the missing
feline, for one of them had nothing more formidable than an
An extensive search soon led the well armed would be
acetylene lamp which was not very enthusiastic as far as the
leopard hunters to a nearby tannery
flame went, and a ti-tree "waddy."
“….After considerable search the animal was traced to a
tannery a short distance from the Zoo. As soon as the authorities got word of the suspicious tracks a large party was
organised and the tannery was surrounded and thoroughly
“..Another man was content, to put' his trust in a pick handle, while yet a third had a long- handled shovel. Several
electric torches and the acetylene lamp were reinforced by a
couple of huge home-made candles with rope for wick,
leopard might be expected, to make a break, but minutes
wore on and nothing happened.' By and by the searchers
came, out into the' daylight again, but there was no sign of
"the cat." Having convinced themselves that she was not
there, the party put out their candles and lamps, and then
went' off down the slopes of the ridge on which the tannery
-Evening Post 19 September 1925
With no sign found of the feline at large the search was
suspended. The Evening Post reported on 21 September
That the leopard had already had five nights of liberty
with Zoo attendants armed with rifles being stationed
around the area at strategic points in the hope perhaps
that their quarry might be yet found. The Evening post
the next day reported that the big cat had been spotted in
a garden in Mt Albert before leaping off and vanishing
out of sight.
The leopard which, escaped from the Auckland Zoo last
week has evaded all, efforts to capture it. The animal was
seen in a garden at Mount Albert, and made off stealthily
into neighbouring cover, says a telegram from Auckland. A
close watch is being kept, and efforts will be made to capture
the animal alive.
- Evening Post 22 September 1925
Consideration was made as to whether or to get out the
hounds from the Pakuranga Hunt Club to try and flush
the renegade out. Mounted Constable Cook and the
master of the hounds Bullock Webster went over the
ground where the leopard was last seen and decided the
ground was too rough.
“….A suggestion to use the Pakuranga hounds in. the
broken country where the leopard is supposed to be lurking;
was made yesterday, but today Mr. Bullock Webster, master
of hounds, accompanied by Constable Cook, went over the
ground, and decided that until some definite news of the
leopard having been seen in open country was received it
,would be useless to think of using the hounds. Where the
animal is, supposed, to be in hiding is very broken-country,
in which it would be impossible to use the pack. There are
wild cats in the rocky rough' country, and these, animals are
often much larger than domestic cats. “
- Evening Post 24 September 1925
Cook with his experience of spending time in India also
dismissed the notion that the leopard had been in the
garden of a local minister in Mt Albert.
“….Being familiar with the spoor of leopards in India, and
after having seen - the mate it the Auckland Zoo, Mounted
Constable Cook says he is of opinion that nobody has seen
the missing leopard. He spent some years in India before
coming to New Zealand …”
“...As for the spoor reported at Mount Albert, he never saw
anything larger, than that of a good-sized cat…”
- Evening Post 25 September 1925
“It's a far cry from the wilds, of the Indian jungle to
the Auckland Zoo. There is a tremendous
difference, too between life there and here. “
“At all events that is perhaps what struck the
female leopard which arrived at the northern capital last week aboard the Sussex from
“ She was in her new quarters in captivity for only
two days when she disappeared and was not seen
for a week afterwards.”
- NZ Truth 26 September 1925
With time passing the leopard still on the loose, the
Auckland City Council decided to post a reward on the
wayward cat of £20 alive or £10 as a carcass.
The Evening Post of 25 September was quick enough to
note : “..The decision of the Auckland City Council to put a price
on the head of the missing, leopard— £20 alive or £10 as a
carcass—makes the capture worth about a shilling a: spot .It
may help to appease the public mind, but doubtless if the animal or its carcass is not soon recovered an agitation for an
increase in the reward may be anticipated, telegraphs, "The
A circus of opinions too had begun to circulate as the same
“…. One newspaper co-respondent, who signs himself
"Wake Up, Auckland writes: "One is inclined to wonder if it
is a harmless rabbit that has escaped from our Zoo, by the
apparent apathy of the authorities. It is true that the leopard
is as yet only a baby, but babies have a habit of growing and
if the beast is allowed to remain at large what summer
picnic grounds are going to be safe? Are we to wait until a
baby or a valued Persian cat or Pomeranian has been taken
and devoured before definite and systematic action is
A gigantic undertaking like that at Auckland 'surely merits
the services of a thoroughly experienced zoologist. In fact, as
the present occurrence shows the safety of the public
“Another correspondent writes: "May I point out the danger
of keeping leopard in any open to the sky enclosure? No
other wild animal approaches them in climbing powers; they
can run up the smoothest and straightest tree trunk and will
scale a rock precipice that would baffle a wild goat, while
their springing powers are tremendous. At large they, are
probably the most destructive and dangerous of all predatory
“The position as at present is farcical.. A taxidermist in
charge of a Zoo is akin to an undertaker in charge of a
hospital. At all events it is no recommendation for those m
charge that m the tactics adopted to endeavor to recover the
leopard many of those m the hunt did not know what they
were to do should they come across their quarry. The
organisation was at times on the lines of a pantomime
- Evening Post 25 September 1925
In its own typical fashion Wellington based NZ Truth
launched a scathing criticism, of the seemingly lack of
ability, on the part of Auckland Zoo and the Auckland
City Council to apprehend the feline predator before
seemingly, she might take some unsuspecting resident
in the darkness and use them as her next meal.
With the headliner “WHAT HAVE THE AUCKLAND ZOO
OFFICIALS TO SAY ABOUT THE LEOPARD'S ESCAPE ?”
emblazoned in bold large type on the page the NZ
Truth’s Auckland correspondent in their article of 25
September proceeded to write a long winded acidic
criticism of the Zoo authorities.
“What are the Auckland Zoo Authorities thinking about ? Responsible for the care of a number of wild beasts they appear
to take their responsibilities m safeguarding the public, to say
the least, somewhat casually. If not, why is it possible for a
female Leopard to escape from captivity and roam at large to
the imminent peril of citizens ? “
Photo of one of the traps set to catch the missing leopard—
He writes, before launching a demand for explanations to NZ Truth 26 September 1925
be made at once for the lack of safety concern for the
It seemed the leopard was being seen everywhere in the area
residents within the vicinity of where said leopard was
as the Truth went on to claim several alarms had been raised
supposed to be lurking. With a certainly that Auckland’s
during the course of the days the leopard was supposed to be
citizens were in peril the writer demanded on behalf of
roaming the countryside
his publication The fact that the wife of ' the Rev. A. J. Beck, of St. Luke's
“...Truth demands that the Zoo authorities shall take steps to
vicarage (just across the road), had seen fresh spoor marks
see that in future the safety of people, children especially, is
not set at nought by any carelessness that enables jungle
beasts to roam at large. ..”
m her cabbage plot, would seem to confirm the impression
that "the jungle fiend is m the vicinity. The district is closely
inhabited, and there are many children, while there are the
Mt. Albert Grammar and Mt. Albert district schools m the
Referring to the leopard as ‘The Spotted Fury’ the NZ
neighborhood. When it was reported that the leopard had
Truth reporter had a field day in his attacks of the Auckbeen sighted, beating operation's were at once transferred,
land Zoo calling them novices as in the paragraph below
and the whole surroundings were thoroughly disturbed, but
nary a sign of the escapee. On Tuesday another scare was
ZOO RUN BY NOVICES.
raised when it was reported that the animal had again been
seen just behind the Baptist Chapel, which almost adjoins
“The fact of the matter is that the Zoo is m the hands of
the Grammar School. The country is rocky, but is heavily
more or less novices. Its control and administration form a
overgrown by bracken, gorse and fern. When the beaters had
sort of tripartite arrangement in which the Town Cleric, the
made an unsuccessful raid they were retiring from the scene
taxidermist of the museum and. a supervisor play a role. “
of the reported whereabouts of their prey when another
alarm was sent out. .
“Even though it is a £77,000 civic venture, it is not governed
by any person who has had an extensive experience in the
ATTEMPT AT CREMATION.
handling of wild animals— at least of wild animals before
they become corpses. And the curator is a half-time official.
Back rushed the beaters, and with reinforcements from
close by they recommenced their smashing tactics. No spotted female, however, came to light, and m a last attempt the
growth was fired. Whether the smoke screen provided a sufficient camouflage or not it is hard 'to say, but the elusive
leopard was not seen. So far there' has only been one report
of nocturnal raids, and that comes from a resident m the
locality of where the leopard was seen. On Friday night
seven fowls disappeared from the premises. It is believed
that the leopard was there on Friday morning, and the evidence is -inclined to go against the fugitive as the marauder
responsible for the clearing of the poultry house.
the animal if dead will be shared by them. The body was
taken into Lady Bay and there bundled into a boat more
easily to effect a triumphant entry into St. Heliers, As the
boat was rowed into the bay an excited crowd gathered on th
beach, and a great concourse gathered. The dimensions of
the crowd became so serious that the police saw fit to hasten
down a posse to regulate traffic. The body now lies at the
Zoo awaiting burial or cremation. It measures 6 feet 1 inch
from head to tail, and is by no means the size of a cat, as
some people have been want to believe.
- Evening Post 12 October 1925
With Auckland now breathing out a sigh of relief that the
‘spotted peril’ was all but deceased the verdict at the
post mortem came back as ‘drowned’ as the cause of
Photograph of the Jagger’s Tannery in the NZ Truth 26
Despite all of the posturing and criticism the NZ Truth it
failed to get the leopard to come out of hiding.
Finally on 11 October 1925 the body of the leopard was
found floating in Lady Bay near St Heliers.
Alarums and excursions regarding the female leopard
which escaped from the Zoo on 16th September were ended
to-day when the beast was found drowned in Lady Bay, near
St. Heliers. The leopard was floating, but there wore no
signs of decomposition. However, it must have been in the
water for some time to come lo the surface.
St. Heliers is nine miles to the east of Auckland, while the
Zoo is in the western suburb. How the animal travelled so
far is not known, but it is surmised that it fell into the waters
of Motion's Creek, below the Zoo. This rises in the Western
Springs, and is a fairly strong body of water. Thus, it is supposed, the leopard was carried into the Waitemata Harbour,
where the tides and currents would easily carry it to the
place where it was found. Its recovery will be a great relief
to the western suburbs and the dwellers in the bush-clad
Waitakere Hills, where there has been an undercurrent of
anxiety for over three weeks.
"Found drowned" was the verdict returned at an inquest
yesterday on the body of the female leopard that escaped
from the Auckland Zoo nearly four weeks ago, states a
Press Association message. After it had been picked up in
the Tamaki on Sunday afternoon the body was taken back
to the Zoo, and yesterday morning it-was skinned and subjected to a post-mortem examination. The body was in a remarkably good state of preservation. The curator of the Zoo
(Mr. L. T. Griffin) supports a theory that the animal became
stuck in the mud in the creek at the back of Jagger's tannery, was caught by the rising tide and washed out into the
harbour. It had probably been in the water for a week. . No
traces of any poisoning from a tan bath were found in the
body, and the animal evidently had, very little in the way of
food for some time before her death. When the body was
taken to the Zoo, the authorities made various measurements, and these prove beyond doubt that leopard could
never have got out through the bars of her cage. How she
escaped still remains a mystery.
- Evening Post 13 October 1925
With everything over it seemed, the citizens of Auckland
went back to living their lives now free of any concern
that somewhere out there a leopard may be waiting to
spring. However rumours soon had circulated that a
keeper had been dismissed for leaving the enclosure
door open as the Evening Post was soon to report
A rumour new in circulation in Auckland city to the effect
that the female leopard escaped from, the zoo as the result
of a keeper leaving the door of the cage open and that the
man had been dismissed in consequence, was mentioned at
the meeting of the Auckland City Council on Thursday
evening. The Mayor, Mr. G. Baildon, gave this an emphatic
denial, saying that the matter had been very closely
investigated without it being discovered how the animal got
put (reports the "New Zealand Herald"). He could say,
however, that no member of the staff had been dismissed.
Every precaution had been taken to prevent the escape of
any of the animals now in the zoo.
AUCKLAND, This Day. The leopard when found at St.
Helier's Bay was in an excellent state of preservation. It
could have been dead only two or three days, -though it is
twenty-five days since it escaped from the Zoo. It was found
drowned floating on its side about fifty yards from the shore, - Evening Post 2 November 1925
and was brought to land by four young men in a boat. The
reward of £10 offered by the City Council for the recovery of The Mayor of Auckland City emphatically denied anyone
had been dismissed for neglecting their duties.
After an almost two month saga—thus the tale of the
leopard would be consigned to history or so it seemed.
25 years later a
second leopard makes her escape
from Auckland Zoo…….
A burst of Sten gun fire at 7.15 o'clock this morning ended
the tension in Auckland over the escape of a young female
leopard from a cage in the Auckland Zoo.
The animal was shot in a thick tangle of undergrowth behind the assistant curator's house. A growl in the undergrowth, the mauled body of a possum and the strange behaviour of birds lead the searchers to the leopard.
- Cairns Post 16 March 1950
And so, it ends, the tale of two escaped leopards from
With all the stealth and cunning of her superbly adapted
kind a second female leopard managed to slink her way
out of her enclosure at Auckland Zoo in March of 1950
News soon spread to the Australian newspapers. The
Cairns Post reported on March 15
LEOPARD ESCAPES FROM ZOO
SEARCH IN AUCKLAND
Auckland Mar. 14 (AAP-Reuters)
A search is being made for a half grown leopard which has
escaped from Auckland Zoo.
The animal, with its mate arrived at the zoo from Singapore
a few days ago. Today it was found to missing from its
enclosure. How it got out is unknown.
Policemen and soldier members of the zoo staff armed with
rifles searched until dark without success.
The leopard has not yet been seen since Monday. It may
have already travelled some distance from the zoo grounds.
Both young leopards were in a pit near the zoo grounds. As
soon as the alarm sounded visitors were hurriedly cleared
from the zoo grounds and the gates were locked. It then was
thought that the leopard was lurking among the trees in the
zoo grounds, but this was not so.
- Cairns Post Wednesday 15 March 1950
Leopards in captivity are never kept in open to the sky
enclosures. They are expert climbers, well adapted to
scaling trees. Not even a pit would stop a leopard from
making an exit from confinement. No zoo keeper could
be blamed for this feline’s escape. Her freedom was all
but very brief. The next day she was found near the
assistant curator’s house and shot dead.
ESCAPED LEOPARD SHOT
FOUND IN UNDERGROWTH
Auckland March 15 (AAP-A)
The Life and death of
Australia’s first African
DUMBO 1940 - 1947
FIRST AFRICAN ELEPHANT AT ZOO
The first African elephant ever to be shown in Australia was on
view at Taronga Park Zoological Gardens yesterday. It is a six-yearold, 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
Dumbo Australia’s first African Bush Elephant at
Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney.
Image Sydney Morning Herald 13 January 1947
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
“...The elephant was bought from a special elephant train- hippopotamus who comes up from the river, inspects the
babies, and everything to his satisfaction, goes back as siing farm in the Belgian Congo. Run by the Bel gian Government, it is the only one of its kind in Africa. Each Febru- lently as he came.
ary officials, with about 60 native boys, go out to catch
- Australian Woman's Weekly 8 February 1947
...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
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 and was headed for Australia with special attendant E. Hargreaves on board.
By 28th December the Swedish ship Mangarella had
They lead a strictly regimented day-morning bath in the river, berthed at Freemantle, Perth ( Sydney Morning Herald
lessons, a period out at pasture, and another bath at night.
28 December 1946) later arriving at Mebourne bound for
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
RARE ANIMALS ON SHIP FOR SYDNEY ZOO
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 rear 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
- The Swedish vessel Mangarella which arrived 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 sevenyear-old African elephant, the first of its kind to be brought
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
A post mortem would later show the elephant had died
of an undisclosed congenital illness.
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
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.
TO-DAY - TARONGA PARK ZOO - TO-DAY
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
All picnic requirements available
lunch and afternoon tea served In
attractive Tea Rooms
Travel by Ferry
- Advertisement Sydney Morning Herald 27 January 1947
The Australasian Zoo & Circus Animal Historical
Journal is an e-publication produced for the benefit of
all who are interested in the history of the animals that
have passed through Australasian Zoos and Circuses
during the 19th and 20th Centuries.
This publication has not been produced for
commercial purposes. Its purpose is to inform and to
provide where possible some background to the
animals in these stories. The research has been as
accurate as is possible. However, there may be
errors or omissions. This is produced for research
Produced and published by Liz Clark, Northland New
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