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.


Postcard of Moore Park Zoo

Postcard of Moore Park Zoo


Postcard of Moore Park Zoo

Postcard of Moore Park Zoo


Postcard of Moore Park Zoo

Postcard of Moore Park Zoo


Postcard of Moore Park Zoo

Postcard of Moore Park Zoo


More information

Want to learn more about zoos in Sydney and Moore Park Zoo you can listen here:



Or read more online:

– posted by Craig Easdown


Download our History Walk app



Tagged with:

Similar Articles

  • Sydney history unearthed: five ‘must-see’ heritage landmarks in the Parklands

    Visitors to Centennial Parklands are easily impressed by its surface beauty, filled with green vistas and water features teeming with native and exotic wildlife. Scratch beneath the surface though, and you will find a whole new layer of historical significance to explore. You might be surprised to learn that Centennial Parklands is in fact, rich […]

  • Moore Park’s ANZAC Obelisk included in national Centenary Project

    In 2017, the 100 year old ANZAC Obelisk was refurbished and reinstated to its permanent home in Moore Park East. The Obelisk is an important reminder of the Great War and honours the departure of soldiers from the nearby barracks in Kensington. Now, the historic monument will be included in the national Centenary Projects.

  • A history of bicycle riding in Australia

    In celebration of the Share the Park campaign that launched last week, we decided to do some digging into our historical records and learn more about the history of cycling in Australia. As an efficient, healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to travel, more and more people are turning to cycling as a primary method of transport.

  • Celebrating Charles Dickens at Centennial Park for his 206th Birthday

    Did you know that on 7 February every year a small celebration is held in Centennial Park to celebrate Charles Dickens? This year, there is more to celebrate with the announcement that Sydney will play host to over hundred Dickensians and bibliophiles. After winning the coveted bid to hold the International Dickens Fellowship Conference, now […]