Thursday, 21 January 2010

Jessie the Elephant

When I was a tiny tot, and a VERY demanding only child, my mother would tell me "you've got more hide than Jessie!"
Which meant nothing then, but I later found out that Jessie had been an elephant at Taronga Zoo, and indeed had a very thick hide, though a different hide to the one referred to by mum.

What's this got to do with anything?

Nothing, except in connection with my family history, I've been trolling through the old Australian newspapers which are online at the National Library
Oh boy, are they addictive!)
and entering one of my rellies by the name of Jessie in the search, I came on a lovely story of how they moved Jessie the elephant from her old home at Moore Park, to the new Sydney Zoo at Ashtons Park (now Taronga) on the other side of Sydney Harbour. (Here's the link to the article)

Jessie would never fit in a cage to be trucked to the new site so it was decided that she would have to walk.

Now this was in 1911, so there was no Sydney Harbour Bridge, I had imagined a very long hike but Taronga's website says the elephants crossed the harbour on a flat barge.

The other problem was the fact that Jessie had never had an outing like this before.
A quote from the article:

"It remains to be seen how the airing will agree with her.
She is not familiar with trams, or lorries, or motor cars.
She has never paraded up and down our busy streets, and the strangeness of it all may not be to her liking.
She is, however, a wonderfully good and sensible elephant, and it is not anticipated that she will give much trouble.
But, in order to keep her in a good humour, she is to be given two nurses, who will walk one on either side of her - two of Wirth Brothers' circus elephants, if they are to be had.
The only fear is lest evil communications may corrupt Jessie's good manners, and lead to her running away to join the circus"

Jessie didn't run away with the circus and eventually settled into her new zoo where she lived until 1939, dying at the age of 69.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Jessie, but on later visits to the zoo there was always an elephant ride for the children.
Of course now this is all looked on as having been cruel treatment of the elephants, but who knows, maybe they looked forward to a stroll around to break the boredom.

The open wooded green park imagined and described in the article didn't really eventuate, animals were confined in small concrete display areas for many years and it's only relatively recently that the zoo has undertaken remodelling to give them more natural and kinder surroundings.

Jessie was an Asian elephant, the latest additon to Taronga is another Asian elephant, little Luk Chai, born at the zoo in July 2009


yewenyi said...

thanks for the link to the newspaper site. I have alredy found some of my family. :-)

Pity you never got to meet the elephant.

Johan Donald said...

Thanks for the great post..The video is looking nice..
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Australian Cruise Group said...

Great blog post with the wonderful video of the elephant..Great job. Have a nice weekend!!!
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Christine said...

Erica, I remember the elephant enclosure at Taronga when I was a kid, it smelt great! I always wanted to ride on the elephant, but the queue was always long and it was expensive with 3 siblings. We used to look on enviously. I've been to Western Plains Zoo and seen them in open exhibitions, they look so happy there. Glad the old zoo ways have gone now, at least here in Oz.
Thanks for sharing the baby elephant too, the TV news coverage has been too brief.

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