So intrigued was I by the photo from the State Library of Victoria that accompanied my Trove Tuesday post this week, Leopard on the Loose, I just had to find out more about the photo.
It wasn’t too hard really. Another search at Trove for “Leopard Hobart Zoo” uncovered the following article.
You can read the full article on this link – Beauty and the Beast – but in short, the leopard was two-year old “Mike” hand reared by the Hobart Zoo’s curator’s daughter Alison Reid had rescued the cub after his mother, an exhibit at the zoo, ate Mike’s brother, and she could not let him suffer the same fate.
So what happened to Mike after his photo with Alison? While I couldn’t find anything specific about his life after 1930, the history of the Hobart Zoo, also known as the Beaumaris Zoo, gives some clue. Beaumaris Zoo was originally a private zoo owned by Mrs Mary Grant Roberts. After her death, the Hobart City Council took over the zoo and in 1923 it opened to the public. During the 1920s the zoo expanded, bringing in animals from other Australian zoos and overseas, but when the Depression hit, the zoo struggled throughout the 1930s until the Council closed it in 1937. During those troubled times the last thylacine in captivity, died at the zoo in 1936.
Reports during the 1930s didn’t give Mike much hope. In 1932, a leopard and lion were destroyed to save money, although the newspaper report suggested they were older animals. Other animals were also sold off to the circus, including Leopards. So where Mike ended up is not clear.
While reading the 1930s articles, I found that my research had gone full circle. One article,from 1934, mentioned none other than radio stars Elsie Day and my 2nd cousin, 3 x removed, Rupert Alexander Hazell. Rupert and Elsie had visited the zoo on an earlier trip to Tasmania and Elsie and Mike had their photo taken together. The photo proved a hit back in England bringing publicity to the zoo and Tasmania.
After reading this article, I proceeded to add it to my “Rupert Hazell” list at Trove. As I scrolled up, I realised I already had, 18 months ago when I was originally researching Rupert for the post, Everybody Happy. When I originally found the photo of the leopard for the Trove Tuesday post, I didn’t think this is where I would end up. If I only I could find the photo of Elsie and Mike. I have tried the British Newspaper Archive with no success.
I found some interesting blogs with posts about Beaumaris Zoo if you would like to read more of the zoo’s history or would like to see some pictures of the abandoned zoo today:
Australasian Zoo & Circus Animals Historical Journal – Beaumaris Zoo (Hobart) Zoo Part 1 – The Legacy of Beaumaris
Simon Says – Tasmania V: Beaumaris Zoo
2 thoughts on “Elsie, Rupert… and Mike.”
this blog is terrific. You may be interested to know that two women Sarah Hamilton and Justine Cambell have written a play about the death of the last Thylacine. It won an award and played at the Melbourne Fringe festival. It was absolutely great. http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/they-saw-a-thylacine/
What an amazing story, Merron! No wonder you were intrigued.
Poor Mike, though.