Wildlife Parks in Australia
New Holland Cassowary (now called emu - Dromaius novaehollandiae) by Sarah Stone, watercolour, c. 1790. Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.
Since Captain Cook's exploration of the east coast of Australia in 1770, with the botanist Joseph Banks, Europeans have been fascinated by the strange flora and fauna of Australia. However, the first zoo in Australia, Melbourne Zoo, wasn't established until 1862.
The history of zoos
Human interest in keeping animals dates back to at least 1500 BC when Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt built a zoo. Many zoos were created by rulers in Africa, India and China to demonstrate their wealth and power.
The Greeks established the first zoos to study animal behaviour. They charged admission to view the specimens, and set up an education process. One of the most notable teachers at a Greek zoo was Aristotle. One of his best-known students was Alexander the Great, who collected many animals for the zoos.
British and European exploration of the world in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the discovery of many species of animals that they considered to be unusual. This encouraged the keeping of animals as exotica in Europe and Britain. The idea of zoos as places of entertainment also developed.
The role of the zoo today
Modern zoos undertake environmental education and conservation of endangered species, zoological research, and provide for recreation through exhibiting animals to the public, special events, and 'behind the scenes' tours and overnight stays which include close encounters with the animals:
Zoos now are a place where people can get in touch with the natural world by experiencing a variety of flora and fauna in a close-up real-life situation. There is still no experience quite like seeing the real and unpredictable animal - who knows what it will do next? There are sights, smells, and sounds of a zoo which take people away from their daily surroundings.
Judith Henke, Melbourne Zoo, 1998
Today Australia is prominent in pioneering new practices for zoos, sanctuaries and aquaria. Zoos are one of the institutions charged with trying to counter the threat to species extinction in Australia and throughout the world.
Melbourne Zoo assists in survival programs for animals species under threat and we also run extensive educational programs, both for the general public and for students. Over 100, 000 students a year benefit from our program.