Tasmanian Acclimatisation Societies

Washing sheep at Panshanger near Longford (AOT, PH30/1/1148)

Acclimatisation of animals and birds occurred from early settlement for economic, sporting and nostalgic motives. Sheep and other farm animals were brought out during the early years of settlement. Attempts to form Game Associations failed in the 1820s and 1830s, but individuals introduced deer, pheasants, partridges, hares, bullfinches, linnets and canaries. Several people owned monkeys in Hobart Town in 1830. By mid-century individuals desperate to hear the sounds of England imported skylarks, which proved to be a joy, but also sparrows, goldfinches, starlings and blackbirds, which were 'anything but an unmixed blessing'. The starling became a pest for fruitgrowers.

The Tasmanian Acclimatisation Society, formed in 1862 after a visit by Victorian acclimatiser Edward Wilson, planned to introduce foxes. In 1895 the Tasmanian Game Protection and Acclimatisation Society was formed and had success with the Californian quail, but not the wonga wonga pigeon, which found Tasmania's climate too cold. The little-known Northern Tasmanian Acclimatisation Society formed in 1899 also introduced birds such as skylarks and Australian kingfishers. From the 1890s acclimatisers concentrated less on importing animals and birds than on protecting native species.

Further reading: The Cyclopedia of Tasmania, Hobart, 1900; E Rolls, They all ran wild, Sydney, 1984.

Stefan Petrow