Adelaide Zoo first opened on 23 May 1883, occupying 16 acres, (now 20 acres) of land granted by the South Australian Government.
The Adelaide Zoo was founded by the South Australian Acclimatization and Zoological Society.
The society later became the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia after a Royal Charter was granted by King George VI in 1937.
The first director of the zoo (1882 to 1893) was R. E. Minchin. He was succeeded by his son A. C. Minchin (1893 to 1934), and grandson R. R. L. Minchin (to 1940).
Another grandson, Alfred Keith Minchin ran the private Koala Farm in the North Parklands, 1936–1960; the surplus koalas were set free on Kangaroo Island.
Pictured: A young John “Dingo” Manfield whose father was head of the Birds Section in the 1950s. John is on the right of the picture.
In the mid-twentieth century the zoo was involved in the export of live birds, with 99% of Australia’s exports of live native birds, mainly finches and parrots for aviculture, passing through either Adelaide or Taronga Park zoos.
At a time when the need for conservation of Australia’s native birds, and control of their trade was becoming increasingly apparent, South Australia lagged behind other states in passing appropriate legislation.
In 1962 a new director of the zoo, William Gasking, was quickly dismissed through the power exerted by the Zoo Council president, Fred Basse, on the grounds that Gasking would not cooperate with the bird trade.
However, when Basse retired the trade in birds dropped to a tenth of what it had been two years before.
Since then the zoo’s administration has been restructured and the zoo has regained public credibility and scientific status.
The flamingo exhibit was opened in 1885, and is one of the few to have remained in the same position to date.
Originally it was stocked with 10 flamingos, however most died during a drought in 1915.
Stories abound about George, (pictured above with blanket and Aussie Rules Football) including one of the night he escaped through his unlocked door and climbed a huge tree within the zoo grounds. Hoogen, who was his keeper at the time, had to rush to the zoo to talk him down.
George climbed down the tree and hand in hand walked back to his cage.
George died in 1976 and his bones are now housed in the old elephant house near the Elephant Interpretation Centre.
It saddens me now to think back and contemplate the solitary and miserable existence it must have been for George, locked up in a cage for most of his life and unable to mix with his own species.
Thankfully zoos today have come a long way and now take an animal’s psychological health as well as physical well-being into consideration when creating enclosures.