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Zoo's colourful 90 years

Cat attacks, green bears among memories

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012

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Tea parties, green polar bears, big cat attacks, escaped elephants and an otter on the run - during the last 90 years Auckland Zoo has had a colourful history.

Today marks the attraction's 90th anniversary and as part of celebrations the zoo is offering cheap entry for the elderly who may have visited during its formative years, and even witnessed firsthand some of its more controversial moments. 

The zoo will grant free entry to those over 90, and offer discounted prices to those over 65. 

Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken said many of these citizens visited as children and then as adults with their own families.

''These generations have been a huge part of Auckland Zoo's history - supporting us through the years and also bearing witness to our evolution,'' he said.

''Auckland Zoo has changed enormously over the past nine decades, so we really hope those who haven't visited us for a while will take up this opportunity to come and see the Auckland Zoo of 2012.

''The past 90 years have been chequered for Auckland Zoo and older generations will remember the days of dress-up tea parties, green polar bears and aggressive elephants.

In 1936 Rajah the zoo's first male elephant was shot after he became too difficult to manage.

It is thought his behaviour was the result of a cigarette being put down his trunk at Hobart Zoo. Rajah's body is on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. 

Much loved animal chimpanzee Janie, now 58, arrived in 1956 from London and had been trained to dress in clothes and sit at a table on stage.

Auckland Zoo discontinued animal tea parties in 1964 following public outrage.

In the 60s the zoo's resident polar bears suffered from an incurable skin disease, giving them a green appearance.

Animal mauling have also occurred at the zoo over the years.

In February 1984 Paul Ross was mauled by a jaguar, suffering lacerations to his upper body andthe following year John Kevin Earlly was attacked by a lion and had to get his leg amputated as a result.

Both men entered the animal enclosures during the night.

More recently Burma the elephant escaped her enclosure into a nearby park in 2004.

She was found shortly after climbing through a moat and crashing through the fence line.

In 2006 Jin the otter became a public icon after famously going on the run for 26 days.

The feisty otter died in Wellington Zoo in 2010.Discounted prices for senior citizens will remain in place until Christmas Eve.

The zoo has seen 28 million visitors through its gates since officially opening in 1922.

This year has been the busiest with more than 700,000 visitors, which zoo staff credit the award-winning New Zealand precinct Te Wao Nui for.

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- Auckland Now

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