"Stormy Old Casey" - The Sins of the Simians Part 2

"Casey, the chimpanzee, specially posing for the camera at Taronga Park Zoo in the keeper's hat."
Image: Sydney Morning Herald  28 July 1932

Taronga Park has been fortunate in securing two exceptionally interesting and valuable animals. One is a large male chimpanzee from West Africa…

 Sydney Morning Herald 4 June 1920

 In 1920, Taronga Park Zoological Gardens obtained a young male chimpanzee going by the name of Casey. The seller was Ellis Joseph, a New York based animal dealer who had kept Casey as a pet for two years, before eventually selling him to the Taronga Park Trust.

Ellis we have seen in a previous tale of another chimpanzee also named Casey. This particular primate was named for the first which Ellis had later sold to showman Thomas Fox. Casey the first ended his days in the USA at the Sells-Floto Circus as a side show attraction.

Tracing the lives of these two very individual male chimpanzees initially proved difficult. With reports of one in the USA, and then one in Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney, it took some time to finally divide into their individual stories.

Ellis Joseph in an interview with the Sunday Morning Star USA (5 July 1925) explained how he had sold 'Casey the second' to Taronga Park Zoo in 1920, then had visited the ape a year later. The visit almost turned into a fatal encounter when Casey bit into Joesph's face and caused serious injuries.

"You ask me if animals, wild ones have any affection.  They have too much sometimes. That was the trouble with Casey the Second. I had Casey as a pet and sold him to the Sydney Zoological Gardens, in Australia..”

"A year later I visited the zoo. It was on a holiday, April 25, the anniversary of the landing of the Anzacs at Gallipoli. Well, the chimp spotted me two city blocks away. We went plumb crazy.”

“I went up to the cage through the crowds and walked in saying ‘Hello Casey.’ Just like a baby he put his arm around me and hugged me, a terrific hug, and I put my arm around him. He was chattering all the time.”

“Then he tried to kiss me. He was so excited he didn’t know what he was doing. One of his lower teeth went up through my neck; in and out that tooth went, while he was kissing me. I fell to the floor and he fell with me.”

“Did the the chimp know he had hurt me? Of course he did. He went to his corner and sulked. I had 43 stitches taken and as soon as I was able to leave the hospital, the first thing I did was to go and see Casey, just to show there was no hard feeling.

“He was so happy that it was almost pathetic.”

Casey was left at Taronga Park with a small Fox Terrier dog as company. Naturally, the zoo wanted to make as much publicity as possible, to draw attention to the close bond between primate and canine species.



Advertising  Sydney Morning Herald  5 June 1920

At the end of 1921, the unfortunate small dog named "Spot" passed away, from an infection caused by ticks and fleas. From that point on Casey pined for his companion, and remained in a solitary capacity.

Sydney, Dec 1
 Casey, the chimpanzee at the Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney, who came into the limelight some time ago because of the injuries which he inflicted, in the exuberance of his affection, upon Mr. Ellis Joseph, the man who had captured him in the wilds, when they met after a long separation, is again attracting attention because of his grief at the loss of his mate, a smooth-haired terrier, who used to share his cage and play with him. 

To drown his grief Casey has taken to drink, but he drinks nothing stronger than tea. The little dog and Casey had long been chums, just a short while ago the dog was bitten by ticks and died, and Casey is grieving over his loss. One of Casey's few consolations is drinking afternoon tea. About the fashionable, hour of 4 p.m. a keeper brings; a billy can of milky tea and a tin mug, fills the mug, and hands it through the bars to Casey, who empties the mug in one gulp. 

The process is repeated till Casey is satisfied. But ever in the midst of the revelry Casey cannot forget his little friend. He preserves a gloomy and morose aspect, and often has to be coaxed to take his refreshment.  Casey has a good memory. For instance, he recognised Mr. Ellis Joseph after an absence of many months.. Perhaps in time another dog will take the place of Spot, but just at present it is thought better to leave Casey alone.

 Though he looks rough enough, Casey is more lady-like in his ways than Molly, the orang-outang in the Melbourne gardens. Molly is a confirmed smoker, and never takes tea. Probably she would prefer cocktails if she could get them. Casey used to be fond of a walk with Mr. Joseph, and would march solemnly along with great propriety.—Christchurch Press correspondent.

 Hawera & Normanby Star 29 December 1921

 Japanese macaque on Wikimedia commons

 In 1923 Casey following the natural instincts that chimpanzees exhibit in the wild, killed a Japanese macaque that was in the enclosure next to him. More recent research by Dr Jane Goodall later revealed that chimpanzees do hunt and kill other species in the wild.

The chimpanzee at the "Sydney Zoo the other day tore down the bars between his cage and that of the Japanese ape, which he seized and murdered by trampling it and strangling it. He then smashed the body about until every bone in it was broken. Spectators said the rage of the chimpanzee was the worst exhibition of animal rage they had ever seen.
- The Mercury 10 September 1923

 During 1932, serious welfare concerns were raised about the poor conditions the animals in the collection were being kept in at Taronga Park. The chimpanzee and orangutan enclosures were described in the Mercury (4 July 1932) as being "small dark huts and not likely to sweeten the temper of unfortunate animals whose only outlook on life was through iron bars."

In 1934, Casey managed to escape from his captive state by slipping the chain that was around his neck. He was recaptured a short time later and secured by a keeper.


The chimpanzee, one of the most valuable inhabitants of Taronga Park Zoo, found a way out of his temporary enclosure yesterday, and took a walk around the park Alterations were being made to his home and he was temporarily chained nearby. He broke the chain, clambered over a fence and made the most of his liberty He was found by a keeper, and returned to his former custody

 Sydney Morning Herald 15 March 1934

In January of 1936, photographer Cherry Kearton visited Taronga Zoo and paid some attention to the solitary chimpanzee who had a reputation for temperament problems. Kearton mimicked the sounds chimpanzees made and had a response from the large male primate.

..Casey, the chimpanzee, appeared to recognise in Mr. Kearton some association with the jungle. He was sitting placidly near the roof of his cage when Mr. Kearton approached, the visitor then conversed with Casey in his own tongue. Casey immediately climbed down to get a better look at the stranger, and, after studying him for a few moments, stamped round his cage in evident excitement, slowly at first, but getting faster as he progressed, until, when encircling the cage for the last time, his smacks on the concrete floor with hard, padded feet could be heard half-way round the zoo. He followed Mr. Kearton with his eyes when he moved away, and crouched into the nearest corner, as if desiring to get out and be better acquainted with one who knew his language. Casey was excited for the rest of the day....

 Sydney Morning Herald 11 January 1936

 Barely a month later, after Kearton's visit Casey died at the young age of around 26-28 years old. He was at least a year old when he had arrived at Taronga Park Zoo. The Sydney Morning Herald (7 March 1936) lamented his loss:

Casey, beloved, stormy "old chimp," who has attracted and delighted countless thousands of children and grown- ups with his antics, is dead. The zoo will be different without him, and it will seem strange, when making a visit there, not to go immediately to Casey's cage to bid him good-day, for, ever since his arrival, besides being the most famous and popular of all the animals, he had voluntarily assumed the responsibilities of host at Taronga Park, and he expected, in return for his trouble, the privilege of seeing everyone who came to the place.

(From "The Post's" Representative.) SYDNEY, February 5..

Friend of Taronga Park Zoo visitors for nearly 20, years, Casey, the famous chimpanzee, was found dead in his cage, after he had been ailing for only a few days.

The cause of death was old age. Casey was at least 27 years of age, and was said to be the oldest chimpanzee in captivity in the world. Casey amused visitors to the Zoo, young and old alike, by his quaint antics, and was generally rewarded with gifts of peanuts, fruit, and biscuits. His "star" turn was the simulation of a huge rage when the group of spectators round his cage barracked" him. The unwary among them was always likely to be the target of bananas that Casey would pluck from the bunch away  in his cage and fling through the bars.

Another achievement of Casey was to kill sparrows that came to his cage to pick crumbs from the floor; he would first stun them with bananas unerringly thrown and then squeeze and pluck them. His wild jungle-dance, something like an exaggerated Charleston, to the accompaniment of spectators' humming, was another of his turns. Thousands of people went to the Zoo solely to see him, and Zoo officials estimated that he-was worth at least £500 a year to them.


Casey was brought from the United States in the first instance by Mr. E. S. Joseph, a noted animal trainer. Mr. Joseph revisited Sydney many years after he sold Casey to the Zoo, and going to see Casey was recognised affectionately by the latter when Mr. Joseph jibbered to him. This ability to recognise experts in animalogy was more recently demonstrated when Casey, spoken to in the language of the jungle by Mr. Cherry Kearton, famous big game photographer and naturalist, now visiting Sydney, became tremendously excited and answered with his curious , barking noises. Mr. Kearton and the chimpanzee carried on quite a conversation for several minutes, amazing the small group of officials and privileged visitors who witnessed the incident. The chimpanzee was of a different type from most members of this species, and for that reason was a social object of interest to naturalists. "He seemed to have a strain of the gorilla in him." said Mr. W. J. Brown, secretary of the Taronga Park Trust. '"We shall miss Casey, but we hope to 'be able to obtain a young pair male and female and train them.”

        Evening Post 12 February 1936


A cage at the Sydney zoo is empty, a cage that, for the past twenty years, has housed the most popular animal in the whole of Taronga Park. Casey, beloved, stormy "old chimp," who has attracted and delighted countless thousands of children and grown- ups with his antics, is dead.

The zoo will be different without him, and it will seem strange, when making a visit there, not to go immediately to Casey's cage to bid him good-day, for, ever since his arrival, besides being the most famous and popular of all the animals, he had voluntarily assumed the responsibilities of host at Taronga Park, and he expected, in return for his trouble, the privilege of seeing everyone who came to the place.

It was Casey's cage which invariably attracted most of the visitors, and it was Casey's antics which never failed to delight the scores of people who were always gathered around the cage watching him. It was Casey who never failed to show himself to his admirers, and to stamp about for their amusement, and it is for Casey that all who have watched his tricks will mourn.

But, for all his friends, Casey had known no real companion since the death of the little fox terrier whom he loved so much and who lived so long with him in his cage, and, while he was always surrounded by crowds of people, he seemed to be lonely and to long for companionship. Perhaps, it is better that his loneliness is over.

The Sydney Morning Herald 7 March 1936