Taronga Zoo may be one of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, but it wasn’t the first public zoo in Sydney. The very first public zoo was based at Moore Park!
The Zoological Society of New South Wales was established in 1879 to create a place for, amongst other things, the “introduction and acclimatisation of song birds and game”. In 1883, the Sydney City Council granted the Society seven acres (3 ha) of Moore Park, known as Billy Goat Swamp, for the purposes of establishing a zoo.
We set up a zoo
The original birds and a donated elephant (donated by the King of Siam – or modern day Thailand) started to move to Moore Park Zoo in 1883, while the the zoo at Moore Park was officially opened to the public in 1884.
Charles Moore, the Director of the Botanic Gardens (today the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney) was also a member of the Zoological Society laid out the Zoological Gardens. Moore oversaw a small menagerie at the Botanic Gardens, and soon re-located the birds from the Gardens to Moore Park Zoo.
In 1902 the bubonic plague was detected in kangaroos and the Zoo was closed for four months and buildings burnt down. Three years later the zoo increased to fifteen acres and in August 1906 the City Council extended the lease for another 14 years. However, it was clear by this time that the zoo needed more space, and plans were made to move the Zoo, and the site for Taronga Zoo was chosen in 1912.
Moore Park Zoo closed in 1916 when Taronga Zoo officially opened.
Postcards bring a colourful history to life
While there are some great old black-and-white photos of the Moore Park Zoo and the animals that lived there (such as here and here), the zoo also produced a series of colourised postcards for visitors to enjoy.
Want to learn more about zoos in Sydney and Moore Park Zoo you can listen here:
Or read more online:
- Daily Telegraph article: “Colonial Sydney went wild for first zoos at Hyde Park and Botany“
- Sydney Morning Herald article: “The zoo ahead of its time“
- History of Sydney blog: “Moore Park Zoological Gardens“
- History of Taronga Zoo
– posted by Craig Easdown