This is the site of the former Beaumaris Zoo, on the Queen’s Domain in Hobart. The zoo was first established as a private collection in a garden in Sandy Bay that the owner, Mary Roberts, opened to the public. When she died in 1921, the zoo was gifted to the city, and moved to this site on the Domain, where it was opened two years later. You can read about that here.
This isn’t the original main entrance, that’s further down the road. These gates were erected a few years back. They say interesting things like:
The Beaumaris Zoo opened here in 1923. In its early years it was a popular outing for the people of Hobart, but in the 1930s, the Great Depression led to falling attendance and rising financial losses. The zoo closed in 1937. In 1942, the Royal Australian Navy converted the site in to a fuel oil storage depot. It remained in use until as recently as the 1990s, when the four storage tanks were removed. (There are more quotes from the gates below, in italics.)
There also a map from the Hobart City Council that shows where all the exhibits were. (There’s a better one in their brochure. Click on the “View online” link to get a full page version.)
(Tiger picture from a full page study, Weekly Courier, 18 November 1931
From the big cats, you can look down towards the duck pond.
The polar bear den. There’s a photo on Wikimedia Commons that shows that from other (front) side.
Zoo security at Beaumaris was not always perfect. On a January afternoon in 1926, one of the polar bears leaped across the moat and came within an inch of clawing over the bars — the island inside their enclosure was quickly lowered.
On leaving the polar bears, we move onto the best known exhibit. There are two tiger pens on the map, but this one is behind the polar bears. (You can their den in the background.)
The rest of the site is mostly trees and grass.
But once it looked like this.
(Tasmanian Archives & Heritage Office). The lions are up there to the left, there’s an aviary in the middle and the kiosk behind the tree on the right. The cage on the right is for the Sun Bears.
The Sumatran sun bears also caused some excitement. Swapped with Chapmans of London for four Tasmanian devils, two eagles and four wombats, these creatures of the tropical reainforest lived in a cramped, poorly-drained cage. At different times, both escaped by tearing the wire with teeth and claws. In one of the incidents, a keeper was severely bitten when he tried to force the animal back with a pitchfork. Nr Newman never recovered from the injury–he died soon after returning to work. The sun bears’ fate was decided more quickly — roaming free on the Domain, they were shot by police.
The lion enclosure was about here. The panel at the gate says:
The lions’ den was directly opposite the original entrance, 100 metres further along towards the Botanical Garden.
Let’s move along a bit then.
Before the zoo opened, the Council sent newly-appointed curator Arthur Reid to visit zoos in Sydney and Melbourne. Impressed by the open moated enclosures at Taronga Zoo, Mr Reid recommended the same modern approach for Beaumaris, and the den was built around the sandstone cliff-face where convicts had quarried stone to build Government House in the 1850s. (The building of the house was in the 1850s, not the quarrying stone. The site was a quarry before that.)
Behind the lions’ den are these remains. I think they’re from the finch enclosure. From there, we can continue along the path and come to the zebras.
Now the path turns down the hill, and back towards the centre of the zoo, passing by the peacocks.
There are seats to sit on here, for a rest if you’re not ready to leave yet.
But finally, we make our way back back past the lions and the aviary to the main gate, but before leaving, just a quick peek at a wallaby.
So, that’s the old Hobart zoo. if you’re ever down on the Domain, passing this fence, you can stop and think about the polar bears, and lions, and the poor sad sun bears breaking out and running free through the gum trees.