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Perth Zoo's Dark History

Home > Perth > School Holiday Activities | Zoos
by Shannon Meyerkort (subscribe)
Writer. Storyteller. Find out more at
Published September 11th 2012
Venue: Perth Zoo
Murder, thieves and escapees
Oh, so you think the Zoo is all fluffy koalas and photogenic giraffes, do you? Planning on taking the kids for an outing during the school holidays? Well before you do, perhaps you can take a wander through the Zoo's slightly seamier side.

I'd like to see this guy try to sneak out

Over the years a number of Perth Zoo's inhabitants have run the gauntlet and made escape attempts – some more successful than others*. Animals which have made it to freedom – even temporarily – include a lemur, a quokka, a cockatoo and a bunch of snakes.

The quokka made a dash for it when his keeper was leaving the enclosure. The lemur was found waiting patiently in reception when the zoo opened the following morning. One of the Galapogos tortoises made a – very slow – dash for freedom, before he was caught and – slowly – taken home again. The cockatoo did a few bog-laps of Perth before deciding that life at the zoo was in fact a better option.

In 2009, one of the orang-utans broke free forcing a temporary evacuation of zoo visitors. Pulang used a rope to swing out of her enclosure and Keepers believe she had been working on her escape plan for weeks, proving yet again that animals are often smarter than humans, as is clearly obvious by the next section.

Despite the graffiti, I have always loved the bamboo at the zoo

Thieves and Idiots
Perhaps harking back to our convict heritage, a number of animals have been stolen over the years including two endangered radiated tortoises in 2011. Visitors have also been sprung collecting lizards, patting the Galapagos tortoises, and feeding lollies and chewing gum to the animals.

Don't pat the tortoise

Carnivore Capers
To keep our scaly, furry and feathered friends in their prime, it's estimated* that they consume almost 50,000 whole mammals every year (don't fret, it's mainly mice and rats). This is washed down with almost 2000 sheep hearts, over 13,000kg of horse (complete with skin and bones) and – what must be a delicacy considering its relatively scarcity – 72 cow hearts. Nummy.

Tiger tiger

Lions, Tigers and Bears. Oh My!
In 1952 a 36 year old man was found dead, and terribly mauled next to one of the male lions at what was then called the South Perth Zoo. Ironically, it was the same enclosure (although a different lion) where a woman also met her death the year before. The man had scaled an 18 foot fence before dropping inside the lion's yard. Sadly, twenty years later a young man was mauled to death, this time by polar bears.

Murderer still on view
Simmo, our favourite crocodile, that massive hulking mass of teeth and attitude is actually an anti-social double-murderer*. Prior to being sent to Perth Zoo in 1998, Simmo had been living in a crocodile farm. He was paired with not one, but two female crocodiles, and killed them both before being sentenced to life in solitary. Some blokes are just better off alone.

The Times, They are a Changing
By now you're beginning to think this sounds like one of the Jurassic Park movies. But just in case you are reconsidering your family picnic to the zoo, fear not. Perth Zoo is a modern, safe, world-leading, educational and totally awesome day out.

Don't forget this grand old dame is 115 years old… and all ladies are entitled to a sordid past, or at least a few lapses of reason.


*Contact me for references
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Why? because everyone has a sordid past
When: open 9am-5pm every day
Phone: 9474 0444
Where: 20 Labouchere Rd, South Perth
Cost: adults $22, kids, $11
Your Comment
When I was at Penrhos Ladies College over the road from the South Perth Zoo in 1967-68 there was an incident when a whole cage of monkeys escaped, our school went into lockdown and we were locked in our classrooms, but we could watch the many keepers with rifles running around outside, and the lady that lived in the house on the right of our school, was hanging the washing on the line, she walked inside to get something and when she returned there was a monkey in her washing basket.
by book_ (score: 0|5) 2524 days ago
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