Sir Edward Hallstrom
02 October 2007
Sir Edward Hallstrom [1886-1970] founded Taronga Zoo Park and directed it from 1941-67. It was in this capacity he gave lectures at ASOPA in 1962 on ‘Capturing of Wild Animals’ and ‘Wild Life in TPNG’, the latter disappointingly offering no advice on how to deal with outstation social excesses let alone activities at Port Moresby’s bottom pub.
As a young man he exhibited an adventurous spirit. In December 1909, he transported one of Australia’s first aircraft, a glider, to the sandhills at Narrabeen Beach and flew it as a kite to make sure it was stable and would support a man.
He had left school at 13 to be apprenticed to a cabinet-maker and studied using the Harmsworth Self-Educator, encyclopaedias and scientific magazines. Intelligent and hard working, he soon had charge of a furniture factory which made innerspring mattresses – the first in Australia. He quit after trying to interest his employers in kerosene-powered incubators. The mattress makers couldn’t understand the leap in logic at all.
In 1923 Hallstrom produced his first Icy Ball absorption refrigerator, a chest model run by kerosene, which he sold around the outback. He then took his idea a step further, adapting the power unit to manufacture Australia’s first electric refrigerator, the Silent Knight. It launched in 1935 and made him a very wealthy man indeed.
By the mid-1940s Hallstroms Pty Ltd was turning out 1,200 refrigerators per week and employed over 700 people. He subsequently invented a machine for refrigerating anaesthetics which he presented to Sydney Hospital.
By this time Hallstrom could afford to indulge two passions—a love of birds and animals (a childhood obsession) and philanthropy. With the proceeds of the sale of five hundred kerosene refrigerators in Africa in 1937, he bought two rhinoceroses which he presented to the Taronga Zoological Park Trust. These were the first of many gifts which gave him extraordinary influence. In 1941 he was appointed a trustee of the zoo which he was to dominate for the next 26 years. As head curator, Hallstrom controversially did away with the miniature railway, elephant and camel rides and performing seals saying, “It’s a zoo, not a circus”.
From 1966 he was also under covert surveillance for illegal trafficking in rare Australian fauna. In 1970, 35 people were convicted and it was thought Hallstrom may have used his influence to have his involvement concealed. The 1993 book, Smuggled, accused him of doing so, but Hallstrom was long dead and the allegations was never proven. Sir Edward died in 1970, aged 83, disspirited by the criminal investigations and with his loss of control over the zoo.
The Hallstrom Pacific Library, established from a £10,000 gift he made to ASOPA, was transferred to the University of NSW upon the demise of the campus in 1998. When ASOP transformed to ITI, the library steadily built a collection of hats donated by students. It was an unusual tribute to Sir Edward Hallstrom, who himself collected the hats of famous men, including Chaplin, Churchill, Truman, Eisenhower and Menzies.
[Lower photo: Jack Davey, Hallstrom and artist Albert Namatjira on Davey's radio show c 1950]
I would love to hear more of David McFarlane's experiences and times with the Rose family.
Gerald and Darlene Rose who lived for many years in Nondugl and worked there as missionaries and farmers were my parents-in-law and, yes, my husband Bruce Rose and his brother (the children of the Roses) lived for a long time in Australia, with their parents.
Unfortunately my husband and my parents-in-law have already passed away. However, our six children would love to hear about their dad's and grandparents' time in Nondugl.
We have heard stories about the coffee plantation and the bird of paradise sanctuary, which they loved. I am sure that they did not eat the birds, as they were very keen on protecting the birds.
Anyways, if there is a chance to get in contact with David McFarlane, it would be great. I am happy for my e-mailing details to be passed on to him. (As I never write in such posts, I have no idea if this is the right way to go about it.)
Hi Gabriele - Why don't you contact David directly at [email protected], which is the email address I have for him from 2011 - KJ
Posted by: Gabriele Castelo-Rose | 03 October 2016 at 01:29 AM
Please tell me if you know what Massoi bark was, used for trade in much earlier times.
Posted by: Jan Brown | 06 April 2013 at 07:59 PM
I am sorry but Peter Turner has done a huge disservice to truth and fact.
I commenced a one year term as motor mechanic at Baiyer River in the Western Highlands of TPNG in August 1970 remaining 13 months.
I returned to Australia, married and returned to Baiyer River in June 1972 and worked for the EnGa Cooperative for 13 months (must be my lucky number), then moved to Mt Hagen, where I remained until Christmas of 1985 when I returned to Australia.
Already in August 1970 at Baiyer was a bird sanctuary in a small side valley that leads into the Baiyer Valley called the Trauna Valley.
It was well established and was started by Mr Hallstrom after realising that the conditions at Nondugl were not ideal for the sanctuary. The altitude would have been much higher maybe 4,500ft or more amsl. Baiyer was about 3,500ft amsl.
At the new site there was abundant rain forest and entry was across a suspension bridge with railway sleepers or heavy planks to form the road and tied to the main cables.
I forget who was in charge at the time but there are hopefully people still with us who will remember. I do know that it is no longer in existence as the local people have stolen or removed everything except maybe the concrete pads for the cages.
They are also sadly logging, from the inside out, the rainforest that contained the sanctuary and of all its precious timbers.
Further, the West Irian didiman was an American with a wife and family there. He is a friend of mine and his kids live in Australia. It should give them a good laugh that Pete says they ate the birds, absolute rubbish.
I visited the Nondugl property in 1973 and there were still birds and cages and I have photos of our visit, though it was definitely not on the scale of the Baiyer River sanctuary.
The Rose family at that time did operate it as a coffee plantation.
Posted by: David McFarlane | 19 December 2011 at 07:05 PM
Hallstrom also brought the New Guinea singing dog to world attention.
In 1956, medical assistant Albert Speer and Officer Jim Sinclair obtained a pair of singing dogs in the Lavanni Valley of the Southern Highlands.
These dogs were sent to Sir Edward Hallstrom who had set up a native animal study centre in Nondugl. He studied them for a time and then sent them to Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
Subsequently, in 1958 the New Guinea singing dog was classified as a distinct species and was named Canis hallstromi (in honor of Sir Edward Hallstrom).
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 17 July 2011 at 10:17 AM
Sir Edward would have been dispirited, too, when he learned the fate of his celebrated Hallstrom Bird Sanctuary, at Nondugl in the Minj District of the Western Highlands Province, overlooking the Wahgi Basin from the southern foothills of the Central Range, about 40 minutes drive into the mountains, off the Highlands Highway, halfway between Kundiawa and Mt. Hagen.
To preserve and protect the local Highlands species, Sir Edward had established the 'bird sanctuary' with the help of Neptune Blood, one of the area's pioneering Kiaps, in the middle of what came to be an extensive coffee plantation.
Whilst birdlife and other fauna are not exactly rare in the Highalnds valleys, every single one of the poor buggers are relentlessly hunted all their lives to satisfy the Highlands folk's penchant for the equivalent of a beaver hat.
It's not hard to understand why Sir Edward was thinking along the lines of a 'sanctuary' rather than an aviary or a zoological garden.
Anyway, when I called in for a look in the early 1970's, it was a gem.
A variety of Bird of Paradise, Goura (Guria) Pigeon ( a protected species about the size of a small turkey, famed for its agressive tendency to attack patrols and end up a very satisfactory main course), and a large collection of possums, karpals, magani, sinake, tweety birds etc were housed in enclosures, cages, aviary cages etc set in an exotic parkland of rare PNG flora of all descriptions, and commercial coffee plantation and processing factory. Truly magnificent.
Years later, after service as a Kiap at Koroba, Komo, Lake Kopiago, Lumi and Aitape, I was at last coralled into a provincial headquarters desk at Kundiawa in Chimbu Province, and it was in this capacity that I received a call from an old mate, Don Morgan, who was then the senior Finance man in Mt Hagen.
He asked me if I knew where Nondugl was and, recieving an affirmative answer, asked me if I minded visting the place and checking out some disturbing rumours.
Sure. Instead of Wednesday afternoon golf with the Chimbu Premier at Minj golf course, immaculately tended by former kiap Peter Van Fleet, manager at the adjacent Tribal Tops Resort Hotel, I'd drive up to Nondugl.
Upon arrival, the change in the place was immediately noticeable. No tweeting, or hooting, no cackling, no barking. Dead silence. Oh, oh!
The rumours were true. The West Irian dude who had been appointed as Manager, had didiman type qualifications, but was also a budding master chef.
Yep, the guy had worked his way through the entire inventory, or should I say menu.
Sori, Sir Edward, it was a good idea that earned international allocades, apparently even from the Melanesian Guide Michelin? Talk about eating your way out of a job.
Our local PNG newspapers reflect allegations that the same sort of things have been going on at the PNG National Museum. I do not doubt it.
Posted by: Peter Turner | 16 July 2011 at 08:54 PM