Barney McGuire with one of his trick ponies in his Belmore Arms Zoo. The zoo was one of the best in Queensland and at one time included 40 monkeys and an alligator from Florida, USA.
Barney McGuire with one of his trick ponies in his Belmore Arms Zoo. The zoo was one of the best in Queensland and at one time included 40 monkeys and an alligator from Florida, USA. Contributed

Kangaroo tries to KO snake expert

RAM Chandra, “the taipan man”, came face to face with a boxing kangaroo when he was crating exhibits at the dispersal of Barney McGuire’s Belmore Arms Zoo in April 1954.

The zoo was closed to the public following the death of Barney McGuire in October 1953 and Ram Chandra was engaged to crate the exhibits for railing to Sydney and Melbourne.

By the time he came up against the kangaroo, Ram Chandra and his assistant, Alf Hide, had captured two carpet snakes and 60 birds ranging from a wedge-tailed eagle to doves.

The grey kangaroo, 174cm tall, was considered to be very docile and that was what he seemed to be until Ram Chandra attempted to shepherd him into his crate.

Ram Chandra and his assistant spent some time in the enclosure which housed the kangaroo and a wallaby so that the animals would get used to them.

They appeared to take no notice but as soon as two men moved towards them, the kangaroo began circling the enclosure like a boxer.

When Ram Chandra got too close, he pushed out with his forelegs and kicked with his powerful hind legs in the style of a boxing kangaroo.

Every time they caught him by the tail he kicked free.

Ram Chandra finally resorted to guile and climbed on top of the shade shelter and when the kangaroo hopped through it away from Alf Hide he dropped a lasso over his head.

Even then it twice bucked its way out of the loop and when the noose was at last in place the two men had to wrestle him to the ground.

Ram Chandra said that crating the kangaroo was by far the hardest part of the day’s work.

Catching the snakes was easy – he just picked them up and dropped them into a sugar bag.

All the birds had to be netted and the parrots proved to be the most elusive.

The birds were secured in specially made cages.

On the next day Ram Chandra had the task of crating three crocodiles, one 12ft (3.92m), one 10ft (3.24m) and one 4ft, (1.20m) long.

For this job Ram Chandra enlisted two more men to help himself and Alf Hide.

They roped the crocodiles securely around the jaws and then around the tails but Ram Chandra said it was a very risky undertaking.

Barney McGuire established the zoo as a hobby as a young man and it was a major tourist attraction for nearly 40 years.

It was very popular with American servicemen on R and R leave in Mackay in 1943.

The zoo was considered to be the most comprehensive private collection in Queensland.

Before World War II Barney McGuire travelled all through the East and he had a large collection of curios from Japan, Malaya, the East Indies and Burma.

He also had colourful collections of shells and coral from the Barrier Reef.

Barney McGuire was a staunch supporter of the Mackay Show and was a successful exhibitor, especially with ponies and thoroughbreds.

As a young man he was also a clever trainer of trick ponies.



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