David Fleay

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David Howells Fleay (January 6, 1907 - August 7, 1993) was an Australian naturalist (someone who studies nature). He was one of the first people to come up with the idea of breeding endangered species in captivity, so they would not go extinct (die out) in the wild.[1] He was also the first person to succeed in breeding platypuses in captivity.[2]

Fleay now has a wildlife park named after him in Queensland.

He died on 7 August 1993 aged 85.

Early life[change | change source]

Fleay was born in Ballarat, Victoria, in Australia. His parents were William and Maude Fleay.

As a young child, David became interested in the Australian bush and its wildlife at an early age.[3] His mother was also interested in these things, but his father did not want David to spend his time thinking about Australian wildlife.

Fleay was educated at Pleasant Street State School and Balart Grammar School. His first job was at his father’s pharmacy.

Fleay then taught at Balart Church of England Grammar School until 1927, when he moved to Melbourne. There, he taught while studying for a Bachelor of Science degree and a Diploma of Education at Melbourne University.

While at Melbourne University, Fleay met a science student named Mary Sigrid Collie. They got married in 1931.

Career[change | change source]

In the early 1930s, Fleay went to Tasmania to try to capture Thylacines (also called Tasmanian tigers). He was not able to find any Thylacines in the wild. So he decided to run a breeding program with Thylacines in zoos. He wanted to breed more Thylacines to save them from becoming extinct. But the Tasmanian government did not allow Fleay to run this program. We now know that the last definite sight of a Thylacine in the wild was in 1930. By 1936, the last Thylacine living in a zoo died, and this species was extinct.[2]

By 1934, Fleay was very well known as a 'wildlife man.' He was chosen to design and direct a new section at the Melbourne Zoo. He worked there for three years, and achieved some important scientific 'firsts.' He was the first person to breed, in captivity, several types of endangered animals, including:[2]

In 1958, Fleay brought three platypuses to New York's Bronx Zoo. Later that year, he was given some money by the New York Zoological Society, and used it to build a new, better platypusary (a place to take care of platypuses) in West Burleigh, Australia.[4]

Fleay wrote a book called Living with Animals, which was published in 1964.[4]

Awards[change | change source]

Fleay was given many awards for his work and research.

In 1960, he was named a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), an award given by the British King or Queen to reward work in the arts and sciences.[2]

Fleay was chosen to be an Associate of the Queensland Museum in 1978.[2]

In 1980, he was named a member of the Order of Australia (AM), an award given by the Queen of Australia for doing important work in Australia.[2]

Later Life & Death[change | change source]

Fleay's wife, Mary, died in 1987. Later, Fleay got married again. He had a daughter and two sons.[4]

Fleay died in Brisbane, Australia, at the age of 85. In an obituary, the New York Times wrote: "As a conservationist, [Fleay] was outspoken and, as The Daily Telegraph put it, he 'strove to preserve native Australian fauna in the days when even koala bears were slaughtered in vast numbers for their fur.'"[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. Science, jurisdiction=Queensland; sector=government; corporateName=Department of Environment and (2013-02-25). "Nature, culture and history - The David Fleay Story | David Fleay Wildlife Park". Parks and forests | Department of Environment and Science, Queensland. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "History: The David Fleay Story". www.nprsr.qld.gov.au. Queensland Government - Department of National Parks, Sport & Racing. November 23, 2015. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  3. Connors, Libby. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Eric Pace (August 23, 1993). "Obituary: David Fleay, 85, Whose Specialty Was the Platypus". www.nytimes.com. New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2015.