Chapter Thirteen — Oddities
The Provincial Governments and later, the acclimatisation societies, were always ready to encourage private introductions of animals, even though in many cases the selection of animals imported might be eccentric in the extreme. In the earliest years in Canterbury, individuals brought in such animals as donkeys, Tibetan goats, Chinese pigs and Arab horses. The Canterbury Acclimatisation Society, soon after its formation, provided accommodation for various exotic birds, some ferrets for Mr Morton and an emu. In fact the Society's new grounds very quickly gave a good imitation of being nothing other than a zoo. 'It would be a mistake,' said Mr W. T. L. Travers, one of the founding vice-presidents, 'to think that in (the) grounds will be seen lions, tigers, elephants, camelopards and baboons.' And yet, in its aims, the Society, like the other acclimatisation societies, had stated, 'The objects of the Society shall be the introduction, acclimatisation, and domestication of all innoxious animals, birds, fishes, insects, and vegetables, whether useful or ornamental . . . '
The Victorian Acclimatisation Society of Australia, when it was formed in 1861, was similarly confused. The honourable patrons were soon quarrelling about what animals to bring out. The acclimatisation expert, Mr Edward Wilson, an internationally recognised exponent of the art of bringing animals to new countries, was very much in favour of introducing monkeys. Sir Henry Barkly, the Governor of Victoria, said on behalf of Mr Wilson, who was overseas promoting the cause of acclimatisation and having his eyes treated, 'Our friend Mr Wilson wrote out to us to the effect that he was a thorough acclimatiser and that he went in for the acclimatisation of monkeys for the amusement of the wayfarer whom their gambols would delight as he lay under some gum tree in the forest on a sultry day.' Sir Henry Barkly then admitted that he himself was fairly lukewarm on the subject of monkeys, although he had had quite pleasant experiences with them in 'Guinea'. On the other hand, 'there are other animals with respect to which there can be no difference of opinion,' said Sir Henry, 'and I admit it was with satisfaction that I read in the newspapers recently that a boa-constrictor which formed a portion of a valuable consignment from the Cape of Good Hope, perished on board.' He couldn't imagine who would have ordered such a beast.
At the next annual meeting there was a new Governor. Sir Charles Darling wasn't in favour of monkeys at all. However he declared he had 'no objection whatever to boa-constrictors . . . The boa-constrictor can, in fact, be made one of the most interesting drawing-room pets possible, and I have often had them twining about my own body.' Sir Charles then went on to reminisce about the happy memories he had of these serpents. 'I have seen them introduced suddenly amongst a party,' he said, 'and made to rear their heads over a piano; and although a little alarm was at first created, the creature soon became an object of interest and curiosity.' He then related an anecdote about how he pulled out a snake on the point of being ingested by a boa-constrictor and sent it 'in a seidlitz powder box' as a present to a young lady and later 'had the pleasure of seeing it as a perfectly tractable pet.'
The Canterbury Society, and indeed, no acclimatisation society in New Zealand, reached quite this state of affairs, but, while Christchurch was destined never to swarm with monkeys the way Hobart did in the 1830s, the Society's grounds did have such animals as kangaroos and deer. In fact, the grounds became so popular with the citizens of Christchurch, who enjoyed going there for Sunday family outings, that the kangaroos were, according to a Society report, 'unduly hustled by visitors on Sundays who keep them continually on the hop.'
Jack the emu was an extremely popular drawcard. He had been donated right at the beginning of the Canterbury Society's history by a Mr E. Flood, of Sydney. Jack was famous as a somewhat mischievous character. He escaped a couple of times, once meeting a bullock and a dray, and so alarming the bullock that the poor beast bolted. On his second escape attempt Jack frightened a passing horse; the rider was thrown and the Society was asked to pay for damage to the horse's bridle. The Otago Society also had several emus and the Auckland Society received one from Sir Charles Bowen in 1868, and two from Mr F.E. Drissenden in 1871. There is no record of what happened to these; perhaps they were given to the private zoo at Onehunga. Both the Wellington and Auckland zoos have always had emus.
The Canterbury Society's gardens remained so popular with the public, although its collection of odd animals was never large, that Dr Frankish, when he was President in 1883, expressed an ambition to see it duly registered as a zoo. His idea was doomed from the start, as the grounds were part of a public park — Hagley Park — so the Society would not have been able to levy the entrance fees needed to finance a zoo. However the good doctor wrote wistfully to the Director of the Melbourne Zoological Society, asking, 'Have you any of the monkey tribe, Madagascar cats, mongoose, etc.?' This zoological society was none other than the Victorian Acclimatisation Society of the colourful patrons. Want of funds, on the part of both Societies, prevented the idea from being put into practice, quite apart from any legal considerations. But there were already mongooses in New Zealand, imported from India by Mr Basstian of Invercargill, the man who imported the opossums from the Hobart Society. He had imported the mongooses to destroy rabbits; the animals failed to acclimatise.
In 1872 the Canterbury Society was presented with a Californian bear; 'fortunately', commented Mr Thomson, 'they were not liberated', throwing numbers into doubt. The citizens of Christchurch enjoyed looking at the bear (or page 244 bears) on their weekly outings. Up until 1891, when it died, they could look at a lemur, too, and if they had a bit of spare cash they could buy emu eggs, at ten shillings each.
Sir George Grey was the only person, however, to make a serious attempt to acclimatise emus in New Zealand. His introduction of these odd birds was part of his scheme to construct an earthly paradise in the island of Kawau.
It had been a tradition for centuries for wealthy and powerful men to keep private parks in which they collected animals. Pharaohs in ancient Egypt collected monkeys, leopards, giraffes and greyhounds. In China Marco Polo saw a splendid menagerie belonging to Kublai Khan at Xanadu. Charlemagne kept lions, bears and other beasts. William the Conqueror was delighted and touched when his son William Rufus gave him a bear as a housewarming gift. Henry I kept a great collection of wild animals. Henry III had a polar bear which swam in the Thames every day and was encouraged by the citizens to catch its own food, as otherwise they had to put up the money to pay for it. Henry VIII kept lions and bears, and his daughter Elizabeth I maintained the tradition.
In the nineteenth century gentlemen of means and property kept deer parks, often with a small menagerie as an adjunct. In England these private collections finally stimulated the setting up of Regent's Park Zoo in 1828, following the founding of the Zoological Society of London in 1826. It is interesting that its first President was that well-travelled man and founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. Englishmen at that time had unrivalled opportunities for observing and collecting exotic animals; administrators in America, Africa, India, the East and Australasia were finding odd and glorious animals everywhere, and were able to indulge any whim of animal collecting to the furthest possible extent. Raffles sent the Society a tapir, a clouded leopard and exotic pheasants from Sumatra. The zoo received ostriches, bears, llamas, elephant, wapiti, monkeys, leopards and a variety of birds, all in its first year. The royal family presented it with a scarlet ibis, three alpacas and a Persian lynx. In 1858 Sir George Grey, Governor of Cape Colony, gave them a quagga.
Grey had been Governor there since 1854. On 26 September 1861 he arrived back in New Zealand, having been asked to return as Governor because his steadying hand was needed in the trouble over land deals with the Maoris. Although Sir George was willing, he had been looking forward to his retirement, and as soon as he arrived he began looking for an island to buy in the Hauraki Gulf. He first bought Rakino Island, and started to build a house there, but when he heard that Kawau Island was for sale, he abandoned his plans for Rakino and bought Kawau for £3 700.
Because his duties as Governor kept him travelling and busy, his plans for setting up a new garden of Eden, where exotic plants could grow and exotic animals wander in freedom, were not completely fulfilled for a number of years. In the meantime the existing mine-manager's house and the assay office were joined together with kauri-panelled rooms and the Governor's collection of books and manuscripts was stored in a library and an upstairs room. This extremely valuable collection was presented to the Auckland Library in 1887.
The grounds were landscaped and planted with trees and shrubs from all over the world: magnolias, Brazilian palms, Indian rhododendrons, jacarandas, red gums, wattles, eucalypts and Cape silver firs; cork trees, walnuts, olives and oleanders from the Mediterranean; English oaks and elms, bays and poplars; Indian deodars, Fijian climbing plants and spider lilies, bamboos and bougainvillaea. He also made himself a pioneer in the introduction of fruits: bananas, mulberries, pomegranates, custard apples, breadfruit trees, loquats, cinnamon and camphor trees. He isolated the heavy-bearing New Zealand grapefruit — what our grandmothers used to call 'poorman's orange' — and gave the first budwood to the orchardist Edward Morrison of Warkworth, so that it found its way into many New Zealand gardens as 'Morrison's seedless'. Irrigation all year round was ensured by the building of a dam in the valley of the catchment area. The shelter of the exotic plants was secured by the planting of windbreaks. Then, when the grounds were established, Sir George began to import animals and liberate them on the island. A romantic man, despite his appearance of being a somewhat arrogant administrator, he wanted his gentleman's menagerie to be different, a garden without bars where the animals could find their own environments and create a niche for themselves in a unique ecosystem. Sir Hector Bolitho, in 1919, wrote, 'From every part of the earth Sir George Grey had obtained choice specimens of trees and plants. It was unrivalled. Travellers coming page 246 from distant regions saw with surprise and delight the familiar foliage, flowers, and fruits of home, growing with more than native vigour upon this far-off strand.'
With a fine disregard for consequences, Sir George liberated kangaroos, wallabies, antelopes, deer, monkeys, zebras, emus, peacocks, kookaburras, guinea fowl and quail, ducks, geese and turkeys. The monkeys flourished too well, and had to be destroyed. A pair of zebras arrived about 1870. Apparently Sir George had hoped that they would breed, but his plans were foiled when one was killed. The other pined, and had to be shot. He had better luck with fallow deer. They arrived in 1870, and thrived. In the seventies he introduced a pair of wapiti, but the doe died, and the buck had to be put down as he became dangerous. At about the same time Sir George imported some gnu, but apparently had no luck with them at all.
He was much more successful with the marsupial family. About 1870 he introduced a number of species into the island; among these were wallaby species which increased in an almost incredible manner. When the island was sold the new owners encouraged shooters onto the property, and indeed, at times let contracts to kill the animals. Even in Sir George Grey's occupancy, as many as two hundred wallabies would be killed in a shooting weekend. He was not too pleased with the unexpected success of this venture, as he considered the animal to be a useless creature, fit neither for food nor fur; however the tails made very good soup. At Kawau the wallabies ate out most of the carefully nurtured vegetation, and starved out most of the other animals, being assisted in this by the hordes of opossums that joined the menagerie there.
Grey also imported a selection of exotic fowls. He liberated some Solomon Island cassowaries in 1868, but they failed to survive the experiment; he had similar bad luck with the emus he tried to acclimatise in the same year. He did much better with the Cape geese he brought with him in 1861. They bred freely at Kawau, and many of them crossed over to the mainland. They spread as far as Hawkes Bay, and then mysteriously died out, no doubt being unable to compete once the small birds arrived. He imported white swans at about the same time and presented a pair to the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. These are now a familiar sight in parks, but the Cape dove, which Sir George brought from the Cape of Good Hope, while becoming numerous for a while, after a spell died out entirely. He also imported laughing jackasses or kookaburras. According to Thomson these all died, but Mr Phil Millener, writing to the New Zealand Herald in September 1981, said, 'Several small shipments of the laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguinae) were introduced from Australia between 1866 and 1880, but none survived except those placed on Kawau Island by Sir George Grey. These spread to the mainland,' the letter went on, 'where they have been seen from Whangarei to the Waitakere Ranges.' The correspondent claimed that occasional birds, probably windblown strays, had been seen as far away as Raglan, Hastings and Westland. In the same issue of the Herald another correspondent, C. Carter, said that their family has been delighted to see kookaburras sitting on the clothesline of their Matakana house.
These importations, their failures and successes, seem hardly worthy of romantic adulation, but the venture did get this reaction in James Collier's biography of Sir George Grey in 1909. 'Kawau, or Shag Island, is one of a group of emerald isles that gem the sapphire sea near the head of the Hauraki Gulf. It is a vision of beauty. The page 247 shy deer can be seen flitting to and fro, and on the heights the bounding wallaby and kangaroo were descried. Trees, shrubs and flowers from every quarter of the globe made it a garden of delights. In this earthly paradise did the disillusioned statesman find the peace that he sought?'
Probably not. A year after he retired to this 'earthly paradise' Sir George Grey became bored and sailed off for England, in 1868. He leased the island out for a few years, and then returned in 1870, to farm wallabies, reluctantly, and sheep, experimentally. He evidently found this life tedious, as he became a Member of Parliament in 1874, and later Premier. Even when his party was voted out of power he was content to remain on as a private Member, only occasionally visiting the island on the Government steamer Hinemoa. In 1888 he sold the island, and was probably quite pleased to be rid of it. As an experiment in romantic Victorianism it had been less than rewarding.
In 1966 Kawau Island achieved fame again, when a thriving population of parma wallabies was discovered there. The parma wallaby had last been recorded in Australia in 1932 and was considered extinct; New Zealand had the odd distinction of having an extinct animal in amongst its noxious pests. In 1968 the parma wallaby become protected, and no doubt the Government was rather pleased to send over to Australia as many of them as possible.
While New Zealanders have become hardened to the sight of flat hedgehogs and opossums on the roads, it is less common to see a bowled wallaby. This can be taken as an indication of numbers, perhaps: over fifty times as many hedgehogs are killed on New Zealand roads as on similar roads in Great Britain, so it can be assumed that we have fifty times as many hedgehogs as they do. However the wallaby, while seen less frequently, is nevertheless a noxious animal, and has turned out to be a most unpopular importation.
Sir George Grey was by no means the only person to import wallabies, as most of the acclimatisation societies were interested in them in the early days. In 1867 the Auckland Society had three wallabies in their gardens, and a fourth was added in 1874. A Christchurch newspaper dated April 1870 says, according to Thomson, 'The merit of the introduction into Canterbury of the brush-kangaroos of Tasmania is due to Captain Thomson, and from the thriving conditions of those in the Society's gardens, their adaptability to the Province has been proved, whilst their increase has been such as to now render their liberation desirable in suitable localities.'
It is difficult to say just when the kangaroo was introduced to New Zealand, as the early colonists had the habit of calling any hopping marsupial a 'kangaroo'. The Canterbury Society received a pair of kangaroos from the Rev R.R. Bradley in 1866, and then in the following year Sir George Grey sent them another one. The Otago Society introduced one in 1867, and various individuals in the area brought in more. However little was heard of them after that, as their acclimatisation was largely unsuccessful.
Three animals were liberated at Waimate, two does and buck. For a week or so they hung around the homestead, and then they reluctantly bounced off to find their own way in the new environment. By 1916 they numbered in the thousands: shooting parties could kill seventy in a day. The Canterbury Society received a pair of kangaroos from the Rev. R. R. Bradley in 1866, and in 1868 a single large specimen from Sir George Grey; these were the animals that the Christchurch public kept 'continually on the hop.' In 1868, Mr Christopher Basstian, that inveterate introducer of animals, liberated three kangaroos at Dunrobin Station. In the same year the Southland Society bought three kangaroos from the master of the Jason from page 249 Hobart, and turned them out on the Bluff Hill. Nothing more is recorded of any of these animals, although when the Otago Society imported a few kangaroos in the late 1860s, people reported seeing the occasional kangaroo and some were found after having been killed by packs of dogs.
Other odd animals imported over the years include Australian native cats—in 1868 the Canterbury Society received two of these from Captain Thomson; bandicoots— obtained from a Mr Perkins by the Auckland Society in 1873; squirrels—both the Otago and Canterbury Society had these in the first decade of this century; and guinea pigs, first introduced by the Auckland Society in 1869. None of these animals acclimatised to New Zealand conditions. This statement may seem odd in relation to the guinea pig, which is so commonly seen as a pretty, docile pet kept by children, but, while this animal is hardy enough to put up with handling and attention from small people, it is not able to survive in the wild, quickly becoming prey to cats, dogs and damp conditions.
In the 1870s a herd of alpacas was established on the Purau property of Mr Rhodes. Up until 1863 these animals were very difficult to obtain from their native land of South America. They were regarded with superstitious reverence by the Indians, having been venerated from the days of the Incas. The alpaca was a purely ornamental animal, never used as a beast of burden like the llama, until in the 1840s the wool suddenly became extremely valuable as the mills of England developed a way of turning it into a luxury lightweight cloth.
In 1845 four hundred alpacas were taken forcibly from the Indians, put aboard a leaky vessel and shipped to England. Three of the beasts survived the journey, only to die a day or so after landing. After this fiasco the Peruvian government completely banned their exportation. In 1850 an Australian, Mr Ledger, decided to beat this ban, planning to smuggle a shipload out of the country with the help of his brother and another man. He went to Peru, bought four hundred of the animals, and had them all collected in one place. However he was foiled when the Peruvian authorities came to hear of it, and had to resell the animals. Almost broke, Ledger stayed on in South America.
Then, in 1852, the British Government made him the extraordinary request—to obtain a flock and quietly ship them to New South Wales, where, hopefully, a breeding population could be established, breaking the South American monopoly. This assignment led to an amazing six-year adventure, which took the lives of three of Ledger's men. He set out from Valparaiso, and even though it was midwinter trekked 2 000 kilometres across the Andes, through some of the most hostile country on earth, into Peru. As he went he bought animals, telling the Indians that he was establishing a breeding herd in Argentina. The Indians became more and more suspicious, and on several occasions raiding parties swept in to seize flocks; Ledger had to fight to get them back. In Bolivia the army took a hand and he was pursued as far as the Argentinian border.
Eventually, in 1856, Ledger had amassed 728 alpacas. In Argentina he rested them, and also bought some llamas, as beasts of burden and also to provide milk for some adopted-out alpaca young; and some vicunas. In 1858, with his animals, he trekked up the Andes again, to his port in Chile. The journey was indescribable, battling winds, snow, marshes, suffering from lack of food, lack of water and oxygen page 250 deprivation, driving through tempests along vertiginous tracks. He lost 198 alpacas and vicunas, 18 mules, 27 donkeys and 34 pack llamas. Near his destination, at Copiapo, a French official offered Ledger a hundred thousand dollars for the flock. Ledger resisted the temptation, and took the animals over the sea to Sydney. Eighty animals died during the voyage. He should have taken the Frenchman's offer: the New South Wales Government paid him £15 000 for the survivors.
Even then, the Government lost heavily in the deal. The alpacas died off faster than they were having young. They cost a thousand pounds a year to feed. Eventually they were sold at auction in 1864. The Wellington Provincial Government bought some, no doubt unable to resist the bargain: they went for £15 a head.
Rhodes bought his animals from the Wellington Provincial Government in 1869. Mrs Woodhouse, in her book George Rhodes of the Levels and his Brothers wrote that in the beginning there were five of the beasts, and after four years they numbered fourteen. At shearing time they were found to be vicious and uncooperative in the extreme, kicking and spitting at anyone that approached them. They were kept on as curiosities until they died out; in the meantime they had been sold to Mr John Matson in 1874 when the Rhodes family went to England.
Once the Peruvian Government had repealed its ban on the export of alpacas, other small shipments were made to Australia, including two by Titus Salt, the Bradford spinner who had made a fortune out of his invention for spinning alpaca wool. But all introductions failed to show a profit. Alpacas live naturally at over 3 000 metres, not on the pasturelands of Australasia.
The llama did slightly better. According to Donne, the first llamas introduced into New Zealand were imported by Barnard Rhodes in 1865-66, and retained on his property at Wadestown, now a suburb of Wellington. The male llamas had the somewhat amusing—for an onlooker—habit of chasing visitors. However when one of the victims was a dignified, if somewhat rotund, Judge of the Supreme Court, Mr Rhodes had to send the llamas away to Rangitikei, where they thrived for a while but eventually died out. Llamas live well in zoos and game farms, but have never since been liberated to try and find a niche in the environment.
In the 1870s a rather curious farming venture was established in Whitford, near Howick. It was an ostrich farm, owned by a Mr L. D. Nathan, which carried nearly 500 birds, giving employment to many of the local people who dressed the feathers for the fashion trade. Mr Nathan later sold the business to a Mr J. Schlaepfer, who continued until the wearing of ostrich-plume-adorned hats and fans went out of fashion. Apparently the feathers were prized by those in the know, as the plumes grew much lusher in the colder climate of New Zealand than they did in Africa. In Memories of Maoriland, a book written in the first decade of this century, E. I. Massy describes touring Mr Nathan's ostrich farm. The birds were all in separate paddocks, according to age, size and other factors; as the ostriches were apparently quite tame, visitors were allowed to stroll through the enclosures. T was moving along slowly asking questions about the birds, and thinking one of our party was on my right I turned to make a remark,' related Miss Massy, 'when great was my surprise at finding instead of a friend a large ostrich stalking by my side, and keeping quite close to me, whilst he watched me with a pair of large and very bright eyes, dark brown in colour and full of intelligence.'
The first llamas were introduced to this country in 1865, but this animal does not acclimatise well in the South Pacific: a large herd that was introduced to Australia made no headway and eventually died out. Llamas have the objectionable characteristic of spitting. In the Bronx zoo of New York an Irish keeper removed the notice attached to the llamas' enclosure which said, 'Beware of the llama—he spits'. Apparently the Irishman considered that as far as the art of spitting was concerned the llama was a non-starter, compared to 'thim yankees'.
In the early 1880s, Mr John Matson, the man who had bought the alpacas from Mr Rhodes, imported four ostriches from Adelaide, whence they had arrived as part of a shipment from the Cape of Good Hope. Only two birds survived the journey to New Zealand, but they were a pair, providentially, so they were able to breed; they did this wholeheartedly and by 1891 the flock numbered forty-three. Mr Matson's neighbours, unlike Miss Massy, did not appreciate the ostriches at all. They thought the birds were very temperamental and liable to escape and chase people. However at that time the plumes were always in demand, so Mr Matson found his flock quite profitable; in 1894 he sold the business. Mr King, one of the purchasers, sold the birds regularly to businessmen in New South Wales, and in 1907 he took four ostriches to Hagley Park for the New Zealand International Exhibition. He put socks over the birds' heads to keep them quiet and transported them in a furniture van. The flock dwindled to about twenty by 1908, and then was sold by auction, partly to an Australian ostrich farmer and partly to an Auckland citizen.
Donne was involved in some odd importations. When he was in Washington in 1904, organising his immense shipment of animals for New Zealand, he was offered six raccoons for the Rotorua Gardens. Donne wrote that he was 'tickled to death' when he saw these animals hanging from their tails from trees in the Washington park page 252 and thought they would be a great entertainment for tourists visiting Rotorua, so he accepted them with alacrity. Shortly after their arrival two of them escaped from their cage. 'There was a hue and cry,' wrote Donne. 'And not after the raccoons,' he added with indignation, 'but after me. The death of every old hen that died of the pip within twenty miles of Rotorua was attributed to the escaped raccoons and incidentally to me.' Apparently the newspapers took up the case with a great cackling and the matter was even brought up in Parliament.
So the importation of raccoons was brought to an abrupt halt, and no liberations were ever attempted. There are plenty of raccoons in North America, seen only at night as a rule, with their bandit-like masked faces peering furtively at any sudden light. They are adept at raiding rubbish tins, often making an awful mess; in daytime they live up trees, sleeping a well-fed sleep. As Donne wrote, 'They are vegetarians and fond of chestnuts, Indian corn, and fruit, but are not averse to an odd meal of frogs, birds, eggs and, must I admit it?—Chicken.'
Donne's other odd importation, which never even got to New Zealand, was obtained on the same journey to Washington. The gift was two casks of diamond-back terrapins; the train carrying these was snowbound on its journey across the continent and missed the boat. Australian freshwater turtles were frequently imported into New Zealand by animal fanciers and private individuals. In 1889 a large number was taken to Dunedin for the Fisheries Court of the South Seas Exhibition and were sold at the end of the show. Two were given to Mr A. M. Johnson and he had them on display at his aquarium at Opawa for some years. Some of these freshwater turtles have been seen in the Southland rivers, but have never thrived. In the same way tortoises have arrived in New Zealand and a few have been liberated. One or two have been sighted over the years, in places such as Hawera, but on the whole they have disappeared.
The Australian green tree frog presents a different story. The Auckland Society introduced two in 1867, and in the following year received several small lots from Sydney. In the South Island, the Canterbury Society received several frogs in 1867 from the Hobart Society, and the Southland Society took delivery of some spawn, probably from the same source, in 1868. In 1888 the Otago Society obtained green frogs from Napier and liberated them in a marsh. The frog immediately became widespread in the North Island, but took longer, with more liberations, in the South. Today these Australian immigrants are widely distributed throughout the country, being found in large numbers in streams, ponds and marshes.
The Australian brown tree frog, often called the whistling frog, arrived in a very casual manner. A Mr Perkins put some in a bottle when he was visiting Tasmania in 1875, and when he arrived home in Greymouth he emptied the bottle down a drain in Alexandra Street. The frogs spread from there down to the Grey River, and dispersed for several miles, but were slow to venture further. They have been found in other South Island areas, no doubt carried there by interested citizens, but have not competed strongly with their bigger cousins.
The large green tree frog arrived in a shipment of six dozen adults imported from Sydney by the Agricultural Department in 1897. The frogs were released in Hawkes Bay, in the Wellington Botanical Gardens, at Paraparaumu, on Motuihi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, and at the Government Experimental Station near Wanganui. The page 253 frog was imported for its insect-eating habits; it did not survive to demonstrate any vices. In 1864 Mr A. M. Johnson imported 30 European frogs to Canterbury from Britain amongst his ill-fated assortment of fish on the British Empire. That at least one may have survived is attested by an item in the Canterbury Society Report for 1868. 'The old original frog, which was imported into this country,' it relates, 'and which at one time drew a concourse of 300 visitors to the Acclimatisation Gardens in one day, is supposed to have been swallowed by a stray swan.'
The early settlers were very lukewarm about importing reptiles, apart from the devious characters who tried to bring in snakes. In his book Travels in New Zealand Dieffenbach related a story about an English sea-captain who tried to bring in an Australian black snake, but was fortunately frustrated by the untimely death of his specimen. On the whole, however, reptiles have had to find their own way here. Various lizards have been found in cargoes, but of these only one skink, an Australian variety, Leiolopisma delicata, has succeeded in establishing itself in the wild.
The task of introducing salt-water fish and other marine animals—apart from trout and salmon, which return for spawning—seems a particularly unprofitable enterprise, but nevertheless it has been tried. In March 1886 several million herring ova were shipped at London for New Zealand on the Ruapehu. When their caretaker, Mr Jamieson, opened the boxes at Madiera, the whole consignment was dead and stinking, so he threw it out and returned to London. Apparently the pipes which were to supply the chilled water were led directly through the refrigeration chamber, with the result that they promptly froze up, and no water reached the ova.
Thomson considered that the introduction of herring could be the most important one in this history of acclimatisation in New Zealand and applied himself to it wholeheartedly. When the government proposed a second trial, he became involved in a series of experiments into the retardation of the development of herring ova, but he and Mr Anderton, curator of the Portobello hatchery, found that the results were so discouraging that they advised the Government not to go ahead. However the Government decided otherwise, and in 1912 Anderton was sent to Britain to collect a large shipment of herring ova, turbot, lobsters and crabs. The shipment, together with an ingenious apparatus for cooling the creatures, was placed on board the S. S. Waimana. Halfway through the journey a pile of rust was forced through the pipes into the ova, and the eggs all died. Many of the turbot survived the journey, however, and after a long convalescence at the Portobello hatchery were liberated—with very little apparent result.
The first attempt to introduce the lobster into New Zealand was made by Mr A. M. Johnson, who brought them with all his other animal cargo when he emigrated on the British Empire in 1864. He had 26 lobsters at the beginning of the journey, and then, alas, no doubt bored with ship-life, they took to fighting, killing each other until only one was left, which Mr Johnson sold to one of the first-class passengers who no doubt enjoyed his meal. In 1885 Mr Farr shipped twelve lobster for the Canterbury Society, but they all expired in the tropics. Other attempted introductions were made, culminating in several shipments brought in for the Government Portobello hatchery at Dunedin. Twenty-three male lobsters and twenty-four females arrived alive, and in 1908 36 000 larvae were hatched in the hatchery tanks. In 1910 about 100 000 were hatched, and from then on most of the hatching was allowed to occur page 254 naturally in the fish ponds. Many lobsters were released in the neighbourhood of Otago harbour; and in the next fifteen years more than a million larvae were released into Otago marine waters. The result has been nil. As with the introduction of other marine species, acclimatisation has not occurred at all.
Oysters were brought out by the Otago Provincial Government in the early days. A number were landed alive, according to Bathgate, who said that they were put in a small enclosure in the harbour near Portobello, under the care of a local member of the Provincial Council, who, continues Mr Bathgate, 'observing one day a stranger in a boat in the vicinity of the oyster-bed, hurried to the spot, and when he got to the shore plainly saw the stranger swallowing an oyster. He called out to him, went for a boat, and when he reached the bed found that the stranger had disappeared and the oysters with him, for there was nothing left but the empty shells.' So ended the only attempt of acclimatisation made by the Otago Provincial Government. Once it was discovered that the best oysters in the world were just around the corner, so to speak—so that taking oysters to the south was comparable to taking coals to Newcastle—thoughts of introducing this delicacy were abandoned.
A far more useful introduced oddity was the bumblebee. The acclimatisation of this busy and attractive animal was the work of the Canterbury Society.
The problem was that red clover, while extensively introduced and widely grown, was not producing seed. The honey bee had arrived in New Zealand on 13th March 1839, when the Rev. Bumby and his sister had brought with them two straw kips of the bees on the vessel James. These came from New South Wales, and the hives were placed in the churchyard at the Mission Station at Mungunga, Hokianga. In 1840 Lady Hobson, the wife of the first Governor, brought more honey-bees with her, and in 1842 some arrived in Nelson with a Mrs Allum. As settlement became established throughout the country, swarms of bees escaped into the bush and acclimatised so well that the Hon. Herbert Meade, writing in 1871, was able to say, 'New Zealand is par excellence the land of honey.' He asserted that, although the bee had been in the country for only about twenty-five years, the woods were full of wild honey. A friend of his had collected 30 kilograms from a single tree, and others of his friend's acquaintance had boasted of taking ninety to a hundred and forty kilograms of honey at a single haul, while another man had collected a tonne and a half in a few weeks. There were certainly plenty of honey-bees in Canterbury; Lady Barker wrote that she had eaten wild honey in 1866. But for some reason these bees were not pollinating the red clover flowers—their tongues, the Society decided, were too short. Bumblebees had to be imported to do the job.
The Canterbury Society began to consider the problem in 1872, having received a £500 grant from the Canterbury Provincial Council, together with the stipulation that at least part of the money should be spent on importing bumblebees. Richard Bills was just about to set out to England on the Charlotte Gladstone for his second consignment of birds, so the Society decided to ask him to look into the matter of bumblebees as well; but Bills was unable to do anything for them. Apparently, it was the wrong time of the year for obtaining these insects. In January 1876 Sir John Hall, who had been on a visit to England, returned to Canterbury on the Orari, with a little cage of bumblebees; these had kept up a lively buzzing as long as the weather was warm, but as soon as it turned cooler they all died. These bees had been obtained by page 255 Dr F. Buckland, editor of the English journal Land an d Water; he had also tried to get bumblebees for Bills but had failed to find them in time.
Other attempts to introduce the insect followed. Mr Farr, the Secretary of the Society experimented with the Ligurian bee: this looked hopeful until the bees were stricken low by foul brood. He also studied assiduously, sending for all the beekeeping manuals and becoming quite an expert. The more he studied, the more the bumblebee looked to be the only answer. In 1883 he wrote to Mr Nottidge, who had been a secretary for the Society and who was now living in Kent, asking him to find some nests of bumblebees for the Society. Nottidge did his best, placing advertisements in the British Bee Journal and some horticultural papers and offering a shilling each for good healthy bumblebees. The response was poor; eventually, in disgust, he gave up advertising and delivered the twenty-one bees he had received on the ship Doric, which left London at the end of the year.
The Doric arrived in February 1884. Disaster. The bees had been stored in a room next to the refrigerator, and had had no care at all. They were all dead, the only difference between individuals being that some were more dead than others, being mildewed and covered with a fungus. A few looked almost alive. 'The morning was beautifully bright, warm and sunny,' wrote Mr Farr sadly, 'so I spread out the moss and laid the bright ones out, sat down by them and most anxiously watched them with a powerful lens, moving them carefully from time to time with forceps, in the hope of detecting the slightest respiration, but an hour passed away.' Mr Farr had, very reluctantly, to accept that they were dead.
In November 1884 the Society, undeterred, tried again. Mr Nottidge placed a case of 282 bumblebees on the ship Tongariro, in the charge of the ship's surgeon, Dr Moore. A fine medic, he: forty-eight of them arrived in Lyttelton alive and well. What a happy day for the Society! Two of the bees were so lively that they flew away as soon as the box was opened at the Society's gardens. The remaining forty-six were torpid for a while, but livened up to be liberated at Ilam. A month later another consignment arrived from Nottidge, and 49 of this batch of 260 were alive.
The Canterbury farmers began to notice the difference almost immediately. Fertilisation of the clover went on apace, and an abundance of seed was obtained. The effect, in a word, was spectacular. By 1889 yields of half a tonne per hectare were obtained. The spread of the bees was phenomenal. Early in 1887 they were reported to be flying at Kaikoura and Timaru. At the end of the year they were seen in the Waitaki valley, and in February 1888 they appeared in Dunedin. By 1890 they were nesting around Invercargill. Whole nests and queens were sent from time to time to the North Island, being well established in Wellington by the end of 1888, and in Auckland in May 1890. They became fully established throughout New Zealand in less than ten years.
Bumblebees increased so rapidly that honey-bee keepers began to get nervous about the effect of competition for nectar on their hives. In some places, where thistles or other weeds were blooming profusely, the bumblebees were so thick that people were frightened to push a way through. Nowadays, of course, while bumblebees are still common, they are not seen in nearly such great numbers. As with so many of our successful importations, an initial huge increase was followed by a diminishing of the population, and then a stabilisation of numbers.
The bumblebees were brought out to this country for an undeniably useful purpose; one could almost say the same for the intention to acclimatise the oyster and the lobster. No doubt the frogs were useful for the number, admittedly small, of insects that they ingested. However the introduction of zebras, emus, gnus and raccoons had its motivation firmly rooted in the tradition of deer parks and menageries that wealthy and powerful gentlemen owned in the nineteenth century. Like Sir George Grey's island paradise, the modern zoo had its beginnings in these same roots. Towards the middle of last century, when many activities, once enjoyed only by the rich, became available to a new audience—just as the deer parks of the wealthy were vastly adapted when the deer were brought out to the new land of New Zealand—the viewing of exotic animals by the public was made possible simply because of their numbers: a lot of people paying a little to see a collection of animals could help ensure their upkeep. An odd offshoot of this development, born because of the advent of acclimatisation, was the game farm-cum-zoological park.
The Canterbury Society set up its game farm at Greenpark in 1931, beginning with twenty-four hen and seven cock pheasants, which produced over a thousand eggs by January the following year. This was the beginning of a very profitable enterprise, as the Society's finances began to improve considerably with the sale of pheasant chicks to other acclimatisation societies.. The Auckland Society established its game farm earlier, at Tapapa, but was plagued with trouble there; the land seemed to be infected in some way so that epidemics broke out amongst the young pheasants and the council decided in 1914 to sell the property. The sale price of £225 went to buy another, at Drury, costing £950. It was soon discovered, however, that this was not page 257 much better, as after rain it became a boggy mire. So again the property was sold, and the game farm was relocated at a leasehold site at Cambridge.
Up to recent times the game farm, unlike the public zoo (the Auckland zoo was formed in 1922 from a defunct private zoo in Onehunga; the Wellington zoo was established in 1906) was not a place where the public could go and pay a fee to look at the animals. However in 1968 a private game farm in the Waikato area was established by Murray and Gloria Powell. The Powells were dairy farmers with an intense interest in acclimatisation and pheasant rearing; they sold their farm and bought a property near Frankton and commenced pheasant rearing full-time. They had expected that they would have to milk a few cows on the side, to keep the project on a financial footing, but did so well initially that the dairying was not necessary. Few of the acclimatisation societies were involved in large-scale pheasant rearing, so for a time the Powells prospered, raising 13 000 birds in the first year and becoming the major suppliers of pheasants to the societies.
The zoo in New Zealand
The establishment of Wellington Zoo was initiated in April 1906, when two menagerie owners, Messrs. Bostock and Womball, presented a young lion, 'King Dick', to the people of Wellington. The City Council set aside an undeveloped area in Newtown Park for the first zoo in New Zealand. The lion soon had company; some llamas, emus and kangaroos, which had been housed in the Botanical Gardens, were moved to Newtown to join him.
In 1909 the Duke of Bedford added a pair of axis deer and six thar to the collection. In 1910 the Post Office donated four storks; by 1912, with continued gifts like these, the zoo was an impressive affair, with well over 300 animals, all housed in their separate areas, roads and paths, plots of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and one of the best rose gardens in New Zealand. The first pair of tigers was on display in 1924; in 1927 the first elephant arrived.
Up to 1922 the only zoo in Auckland was a small private zoo at Onehunga. Mr Gunson, the mayor of Auckland at that time, was very keen that Auckland should have a public zoo. He had his eye on land at Western Springs, originally bought by the Council for water supply purposes. A single-minded man, he put the idea to public vote, and won. The Council allocated a ten thousand pound loan to develop the land for the zoo, and took out an option on some of the animals in the Onehunga zoo, which was owned by a Mr J. J. Boyd—notably lions, bears and wolves.
Once in gear, the development of the zoo rolled along very nicely. John Court Ltd. donated funds to buy an Indian elephant, which later became familiar to thousands of young visitors as 'Jamuna'. The zoo was officially opened on 17 December 1922.
The first few years of the history of this zoo were not without excitement. Eight animals were deliberately poisoned in August 1924. In 1925 a leopard escaped, and roamed around the city for several weeks: its body was eventually found floating in the harbour.
Despite Dr Frankish's ambitions, the zoo in Christchurch was much slower to arrive. In 1970 a small group of people formed the South Island Zoological Society, for the purpose of establishing a wildlife park at that city. The result was New Zealand's first—and so far most successful—Lion Safari Park—Orana.
In one good year they sent 59 000 chicks to the North Canterbury Society, but, with the move in society policy away from pheasant liberations, together with the rapidly escalating price of feed, this side of their business began to deteriorate swiftly. The Powells seemed left without a future—but a deer stalker had given them a deer, and people liked to look at it. So, an inspiration was born. First they had to obtain a licence from the Forest Service to keep a deer in captivity—a lengthy process, in those days before the establishment of deer farming on a large scale. Then they sold part of their land for cash, raised a loan, built a lodge and tearooms, and went into the private zoo business, becoming a registered zoological park.
The keeping of a zoo has never been a profitable business—in fact, the International Council of Museums recently defined a zoo as a 'non-profitmaking permanent institution, in the service of society and its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits for the purpose of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of man and his environment.' Game farms and safari parks also fall within this definition.
The game farm-cum-zoological park is a special phenomenon in that it recognises the environment of New Zealand today, exhibiting evidence of the successful experiments in acclimatisation made by our ancestors. As well as a big selection of deer and pheasant species, the Powells in their Hilldale zoo park show exotic and native birds, reptiles such as lizards, both native and exotic, and turtles. Like the acclimatisation societies a century ago, they have been glad to accept the oddities too, the animals that would never make it if liberated into the environment. The Auckland and Wellington zoos have donated animals and the Powells have housed and displayed them. A splendid mixed selection has resulted. Guinea pigs build their burrows close by a cage holding a puma. A llama grunts and wanders with a herd of rusa deer. Barbary sheep have a thar to keep them placid company. Rabbits and wallabies bump noses, and a donkey has set up a love affair with a Canada goose. Peahens and peacocks strut freely and shrilly with a chattering horde of cheeky sparrows and pigeons.
A zoo is an asset to any community, and because of this, the Hamilton City Council took over the park when its 'non-profitmaking' orientation became too much for the Powells. The zoo is now owned by the people of Hamilton, who have patronised it with such interest that the Powells have only once had to ask for help from the council coffers.
If game parks are a modern development from the acclimatisation societies and their peculiarities, safari parks are a close relative. But safari parks deal exclusively in the visitor animals—none of their stock have ever been liberated, or are ever likely to be. The Auckland Lion Safari Park is the newest of these, opened at the end of 1981. Other entrepreneurs have tried the venture, the earliest being the Orana Lion Park outside Christchurch. Until recently there were two others—one at Paraparaumu and another outside Hamilton—but these failed. The new park at Auckland has the backing of a circus organisation—the Bullen organisation, which is involved in six safari parks in Australia—so it has its roots in the exotic animal-keeping business that is the oldest of them all.
To visit a safari park, one does not leave one's car (although if you are a politician you can get a free ticket to travel through on a pushbike). Windows must be kept closed at all times, as you drive slowly and gaze at lions. It is the ultimate step in transferring alien animals to our environment. None of the men who founded acclimatisation societies, not even Sir George Grey, ever dreamed of anything like this. These animals are ornamental, certainly, useful, perhaps—but innoxious, never.
It sometimes happens that animals can form the oddest of relationships. At Hilldale zoo park, a fawn brought up with a turkey would not be separated from the bird until it grew old enough for breeding. Neddie, the donkey in these pictures, is 47 years old—a great age for a member of the equine family; and when he became sick it was recommended he be put down. But for the previous two years he had been the constant companion of this Canada goose, and so close is the couple that it was feared that the bird would pine away. So, with medicine and nursing, Neddie's life was saved, and he and the goose are still inseparable.