Brisbane Botanic Gardens Zoo – any memories?

Last week on my rambles through blog-land I read a “new” blog: Adventure before Dementia (a very catchy title for those of a certain age).  One of the posts was about a walk through the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in the City and along the river: a part of Brisbane affected by the January floods.

For some reason this post brought to mind an early childhood memory of seeing monkeys and birds in cages in these Gardens. I assume my mother, and possibly grandmother or great aunt, went for an outing to see the animals. This memory in turn set me to googling to find a timeline for the zoo. The Picture Queensland site says that the zoo was open for the first half of the twentieth century and closed in 1952. Their ancient Galapagos Island tortoise went to Australia Zoo and only died in 2006, aged >170 years (Thanks for picking up my mistake with this, John -I obviously misread the story). This timeline for the zoo’s closure didn’t gel with me, despite the authority of the site, as I’d have only been weeks old when it closed (well yes, that is a fib, LOL).

So back to my good friend Trove and Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper. On 8 October 1953 the paper reported discussions within the Brisbane City Council and one alderman urged that the animals and birds be moved from the Botanic Gardens to a zoo site as soon as possible. It seems incontrovertible that the animals were still being kept in the Gardens at that time (the Gardens were licenced as an authorised zoo[i]). Another article on 9 October did a vox pop and found that the zoo was a “big city lack” and “Brisbane has only those animals down in the Gardens”. And so it seems that the “zoo” and the animals were still in the Gardens at least a year later than the official record suggests.  A copyrighted Brisbane City Council image on Picture Australia dates from 1958 and shows the cages.

I wonder if any other readers can remember the monkeys and birds in cages in the Gardens? I’d certainly be interested to hear their recollections.

Do readers have special memories of these Gardens? Our own family’s is taking our youngest daughter there to her first Christmas Carols when she was a few weeks old – the guns and fireworks to the 1812 overture frightened her no end.

[i] The Courier-Mail 22 July 1949, page 3.

20 thoughts on “Brisbane Botanic Gardens Zoo – any memories?

  1. I can remember the monkeys and the tortoise in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens.
    Some of the OTHER boys would pull their bottom eyelids down while looking at the monkeys. Apparently this is an offensive gesture to a monkey and the boys were amused by the reaction of the monkeys.
    I thought that the tortoise that had been living in the Gardens was the same one that died only a few years ago in Australia Zoo.


    • hi John, Thanks for your comment and the memory. Also for picking up my mistake about the tortoise -I’ve amended it now so that it’s correct. Do you have a timeline for your memory of the monkeys? I feel sure it must have been after 1952 in my case. Cheers Pauleen


  2. The 1958 image doesn’t make it clear if the cages were empty or occupied. In any case, I remember the monkeys but am now not sure what other animals I saw there. I do remember, even as a kid, thinking the cages seemed rather decrepit. I would guess I was about ten years old when the zoo went, which means it closed around 1958-1959.
    You would think the date would be documented in BCC archives. It was certainly not 1952.


    • hi Greg, the evidence is stacking up that at least elements of the zoo were open until the late 1950s….I’d have been far too young to remember 1952. Thanks for your feedback. Pauleen


  3. I vaguely remember seeing a large red Orangutan at the Brisbane botanical gardens zoo. I was told that when he died he ended up in a glass case within the old Qld. museum. Am I correct ??


    • hi M J, you may well be right but I can’t recall the orangutan at all. A very long time since I’ve been in the Qld Museum too. I wonder if anyone else remembers this?


  4. From Donella
    I was born in January 1953 and came to Brisbane at 51/2 which would be mid 1958 I remember the zoo so it must have been there in the second half of 1958. I remember the bear pit.


    • hi Donella, thanks for letting me know that. Those of us who grew up in Brisbane remember it but its fate seems much more ambiguous. I don’t remember a bear pit -funny what sticks in our minds. Pauleen


  5. Yes, I remember the animals, mainly the monkeys, in the city zoo. It would have been about 1956, but didn’t go there often as I felt sorry for the animals and didn’t like to see them. My impression even at a young age was that it wasn’t a great place for them!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My mother would take me to the Gardens in about 1954. I used to feed the monkeys with pieces of musk stick lollies. I rode the tortoise as well. The cafeteria had the best egg and lettuce sandwiches ever.We caught the train in from Pinkenba. I used to marvel at the height of the City hall clock.


    • Sorry Johnny, somehow I missed your comment before. We were possibly a similar age at the time. Musk lollies!! I wonder if the monkeys had a sweet tooth! Isn’t it interesting how those egg and lettuce sangers stayed in your mind through the years and isn’t it ironic how we all thought the City Hall clock was so high…and look at the city now.


  7. My dad is 100 percent certain and remembers JACKO ( a gorilla not a monkey ) in a cage behind the restrooms . He was never allowed to get too close because he used to throw his business at people . He was in a cage on his own , no one else seems to remember him . This would have been approx 1949-52


    • Hi Susie, I don’t remember the koalas being there so that’s interesting. It’s funny how it’s disappeared from public memory but not for those of us “of a certain age”. Pauleen


  8. I. remember Jacko before the war.He lived in a horrible cage constructed with concrete and iron bars and he was constantly teased by members of the public.The first time mum and I saw him was in 1938 and an old man asked mum if he could pretend to hit her so we could see Jacko`s reaction.As soon as he pretended to hit mum Jacko went mad screaming and jumping up and down.This was how the gentry of Brisbane got thneir jollies. Kevin born 1933.


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