Ref: Ron Clark, Elephant ride, February 1956, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-783.
Many locals have fond memories of having had a ride on Jamuna as a child. During her lifetime, Jamuna is estimated to have given rides to three-quarters of a million people.
Jamuna wasn’t resident at the zoo at the time of its opening on 17th December 1922, but arrived shortly afterwards, in June 1923.
Ref: Auckland Weekly News, The increasing attractions at Auckland's Zoological Park, 24 January 1924, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19240124-45-1.
Jamuna, thought to be six years old, came from the Zoological Gardens of Calcutta, accompanied by her mahout Ater Ali. Her purchase was funded by a donation from businessman, Auckland City Counsellor and first life member of the Auckland Zoological Society: John Court.
Ref: FG Radcliffe, Jamuna and her keeper, 1920s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R177.
Jamuna had been familiar with giving rides to children in Calcutta, and started giving rides to children at the Auckland Zoo on 10th November 1923, with the first rides going to the children who had won an essay-writing competition.
Ref: FG Radcliffe, Watching the elephant, 1920s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R176.
Jamuna passed away on the 2nd September 1965, and her 42 years of service was memorialised in a plaque placed on the wall of the elephant house. The tradition of giving elephant rides died with Jamuna, zoo practice having changed much over the years. As a replacement for Jamuna, in 1968 Ma Schwe was gifted to the zoo by the son of John Court, but died in 1982 of acute heart failure. Kashin joined the zoo in 1973, and Burma arrived in 1990. When Kashin died in 2009, she was farewelled by over 17,000 visitors. Whist other zoo elephants have continued to follow in her (large) footsteps, as the zoo’s First Lady, Jamuna has left a long and lasting impression.
Ref: Ron Clark, Jamuna and her keeper, February 1956, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-784.
The background reading that informs this post was from A tiger by the tail: a history of the Auckland Zoo, 1922-1992 by Derek Wood with Robert Mannion.
This is the second in our series on elephants in Auckland.
Author: Rachel, Central Auckland Research Centre