If I had ever written a list of historical places to visit in Western Australia, I probably would not have included Perth Zoo. Being home to some of the most amazing natural animinal exhibits, it’s quite easy to forget how old it actually is.
Opening on 17 October 1898, it is in its 112th year and definitely should be considered an important part of Western Australia’s history. Not only was it popular for viewing the exotic animals, it also played an integral part in entertaining the people. Their tennis courts were regularly hired out for tournaments and mineral baths were also available for relaxation.
Today, most of it is now an animal paradise which provides them with enclosures that replicate their natural environment and allows us mere humans a chance to view them as they should be. Walking around the zoo however (and if you’re a dork like me, you’ve printed off the heritage trail map from their website) you will be able to look upon the various historical sites that have remained in the zoo and are now a symbol of years gone by.
Following the map, the heritage spots are not hard to find. Signs are provided which give more information as well as old photos which show what it used to look like. With most of the zoo enclosures being fairly modernised (as they should be) there aren’t a lot of things that remain from when it first opened.
The tennis shelters still remain and after entering we quickly made our way over to them in the hope of securing a good spot to set up camp. Luckily for us we arrived early enough and managed to grab one. These shelters were erected in 1903 and as I looked around it was quite hard to imagine that the beautiful picnic grounds were once tennis courts that in 1909 had even played host to the Australasian Tennis Open. This tournament later became known as the Australian Open.
I personally found that the most interesting historical site were the old bear caves. Being the home to bears as well as foxes, dingoes and jackals, they were part of the original zoo exhibits and were built in 1898. They are a relic from the past of when the comfort of the animals was not considered. Looking upon the bear caves, I couldn’t help but feel quite sad for the animals who had to live their lives in cramped enclosures for people’s viewing pleasure. At the same time however, I felt incredibly glad that we as a society have learnt from the past and now do not carry out these practices.
Please visit: http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/