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Biographical entry Fleay, David Howells (1907 - 1993)


6 January 1907
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
7 August 1993
West Burleigh, Queensland, Australia
Zoologist and Ornithologist


David Fleay was a naturalist and conservationist whose life's work in was in managing zoos for scientific and conservation purposes. He was the innovative Curator of the Australian Section at the Melbourne Zoological Gardens before becoming Director of the Sir Colin Mackenzie Sanctuary in Victoria. Fleay moved to Queensland in 1952, acquiring land south of Brisbane on part of which he established Fleay's Fauna Reserve. The Reserve became a popular tourist attraction. Fleay pioneered the captive breeding of endangered species and was the first person to breed platypus in captivity. From 1953 he was a major supplier of snake venom to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Between 1982 and 1982 Fleay negotiated the sale of his Fauna Reserve to the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, part becoming the David Fleay Wildlife Park and the rest the Tallebudgera Creek Conservation Reserve. Fleay wrote a number of books, including We breed the platypus (1944), and was a regular contributor to newspapers and radio programs. He became an Honorary Associate of the Queensland Museum and was co-founder of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. The giant frog Mixophyes fleayi and several other species were named in his honour.



Education - BSc, University of Melbourne
Education - DipEd, University of Melbourne
1933 - 1934
Career position - Teacher, Victorian Department of Education
1934 - 1937
Career position - Designer and Curator, Australian Section, Melbourne Zoological Gardens
1937 - 1947
Career position - Director, Sir Colin Mackenzie Sanctuary, Healesville, Victoria
Award - Australian Natural History Medallion, Field Naturalist Club of Victoria
1945 - 1993
Award - Corresponding Member, Zoological Society of London
1945 - 1993
Award - Honorary Member, Field Naturalists Club of Victoria
1947 - 1993
Award - Corresponding Member, New York Zoological Society
1952 - 1982
Career position - Founder and director, Fleay's Fauna Reserve, West Burleigh, Queensland
1953 - ?
Career position - Supplier of taipan venom to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories
Award - Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Life event - Founder, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland
1978 - ?
Career position - Honorary Associate, Queensland Museum
1979 - 1993
Award - Fellow, New York Explorers Club
Award - Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of service to wildlife conservation
Award - Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow
Award - Advance Australia Award
Award - DSc (honoris causa), University of Queensland

Related Awards

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Fleay-Thomson, Rosemary, Animals First: the Story of Pioneer Australian Conservationist and Zoologist Dr David Fleay (Nerang, Qld: Petaurus Publishing, 2007), 338 pp. Details

Edited Books

  • Fleay-Thomson, Rosemary ed., David Fleay's world of wedge-tails: the writings of David Fleay on the Wedge-tailed Eagle (Natural Bridge, via Nerang, Qld: Petaurus Publishing, 2002), 85 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Anderson, Fay, 'David Fleay (1907-1993)', Australasian Science, 20 (8) (1999), 46. Details
  • Balmford, Peter, 'Newspapers as a Source of Information about Natural History', Victorian Naturalist, 102 (1) (1985), 20-27. Details
  • Laker, Linda, 'David Fleay, Australian naturalist and educator', Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 17 (11) (1998), 515-24. Details
  • Sutherland, S. K., 'David Fleay', Medical Journal of Australia, 159 (1993), 82. Details



  • Fleay-Thomson, Rosemary, Animals First: the Story of Pioneer Australian Conservationist and Zoologist Dr David Fleay (2007)
    Medlock, Kathryn, Historical Records of Australian Science, 20 (2), (2009), 282-284. Details

See also

  • Mirtschin, Peter, 'The Pioneers of Venom Production for Australian Antivenoms', Toxicon, 48 (7) (2009), 899-918 . Details
  • Robin, Libby, The Flight of the Emu: a Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), 492 pp. Details

McCarthy, G.J., Wallker, R.H. and Helen Cohn