Visit to St. Monica’s Primary School in Footscray
Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting St Monica’s Primary School in Footscray and speaking to the Year 4/5 students about ‘Queenie One Elephant’s Story’ and the research behind it. Next week the students will be visiting Mali and Ongard the elephant calves at the Melbourne Zoo and their wonderful teachers, Maggie and Louisa, saw my visit as a way of giving the students a comparison of the differences between zoos today and what they were like back in the days when Queenie walked the circuit at the Melbourne Zoo.
In preparation for my visit the teachers had worked with the students by encouraging them to carry out their own research about Queenie and the history of the Melbourne Zoo and I was greeted by a Welcome Sign and a display of their work. One student’s thoughts particularly touched my heart – ‘An elephant’s purpose is not to carry people. Its purpose is to be free in their habitat.’
From 1905 to 1944 Queenie walked the circuit at the Melbourne Zoo, giving rides to both children and adults. At the time, Queenie wasn’t the only elephant giving rides in zoos – there was Maryann in Adelaide, Jessie in Sydney and countless others around the world.
I explained to the children that animal keepers in zoos today are well qualified experts in their field, specialising in animal care and welfare and gaining a job in a zoo is very competitive. Back in Queenie’s day a keeper didn’t require any special knowledge at all, apart from a willingness to work with animals, and keeping animals in cages was the accepted norm of the times. Zoos were different back then and we have come a long way in our knowledge of the care and housing of wild animals and I believe there is no place more evident of that than at The Trail of the Elephants at the Melbourne Zoo and I’m sure the students will enjoy every moment of their visit.