Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria

Doing Nature's Work

McCoy was an active member of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, which sought to introduce exotic species to the colony, both for the larder and as nostalgic reminders of their homeland.

It is no surprise that in 1870 the first specimen of the European Brown Trout caught in Victoria was donated to Professor McCoy's museum by William Robertson, who had nurtured the fish in a dam on his property near Mount Macedon.

The Brown Trout is now found 'naturalised' in lakes, rivers, and creeks throughout much of Victoria, where it feeds on insects, crustaceans, molluscs and small fish. It has had a severe impact on various species of indigenous fish, particularly the Galaxiidae or 'native trout'1.

While most introductions to the Victorian environment came from distant continents, the Acclimatisation Society was not averse to 'improving' their world by introducing species from other parts of the colony itself. McCoy gave an account of the attempted introduction of the Murray Cod into the Yarra, where it had not previously existed.

The Acclimatisation Society many years ago introduced it for the first time into the Yarra, where it is now established, but does not thrive, although its voracity has sensibly diminished the numbers of several of the native fishes of that river, particularly the Blackfish (Gadopsis gracilis) and the Yarra Herring or Australian Grayling (Prototroctes maræna), which have now disappeared from the lower parts of the Yarra altogether.'

McCoy was clearly invigorated by the opportunity to 'enhance' the environment, encouraging his fellow acclimatisers to 'rejoice with me that this piece of nature's work has been left for us to do.'2

Salmo trutta, the first trout caught in Australia.
Original pencil and watercolour illustration of the Murray Cod, Maccullochella peelii, by Arthur Bartholomew.


1GR Allen, SH Midgley & M Allen, Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia, Western Australian Museum, 2002, p. 359.
2Linden Gillbank, 'Animal Acclimatisation: McCoy and the Menagerie That Became Melbourne's Zoo', The Victorian Naturalist 118 (6), 2001, p. 298.