Hobart's Zoo, probably in the 1920s (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

A small zoo has operated continuously in Launceston's City Park since at least 1881, with macaque monkeys the remnants of the original collection of native and foreign animals. In the south, the first zoo, established in 1895 in her home, Beaumaris, was Mrs Mary Roberts' private menagerie of native mammals and exotic birds. A renowned zoo-keeper, she was the first to successfully breed Tasmanian devils in captivity, and conducted a lucrative business exchanging native animals with overseas zoos. After her death, the collection was offered to the Hobart City Council, which established the Beaumaris Zoo in 1923. In the days before television and mass travel, crowds flocked to see exotic animals, especially the polar bears. The curator's daughter, Alison Reid, hand-raised various animals as household pets and walked her leopard on the Domain. Ironically, thylacines attracted little attention, and the last known Tasmanian tiger died in 1936 after nearly thirteen years in captivity. A quiet animal, it was so tame that the famous film footage was shot inside its cage. High running costs and falling attendances forced the zoo's closure in 1937.

Dependent on private funding, a small population and insufficient tourists, many zoos have foundered over the years, including those at Westbury, Punchbowl, Rutherglen, Granton and Cygnet. By the 1970s, permits for keeping wild animals were issued under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. In 2004, animals could be seen at Bonorong Wildlife Park, East Coast Natureworld, Launceston Lakes and Wildlife Park, Something Wild, Tasmanian Devil Park, Trowunna Wildlife Park, Wings Farm Park and ZooDoo Fun Park.

Further reading: K Evans & M Jones, The Beaumaris Zoo site conservation plan, Hobart, 1996; E Guiler, 'The Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart', THRAPP 33/4, 1986; L Gulson, City Park, Launceston, [Launceston], 1991.

Wendy Rimon