Public diplomacy

Grandad the Australian lungfish celebrates 80 years in Chicago

17 September 2013

In 1933, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and Chicago’s John G Shedd Aquarium collaborated to showcase Australian native fish at the Century of Progress World’s Fair.

A prized collection was picked from Taronga Zoo in May 1933 by a collecting crew from the Shedd, travelling by steamer and then in a custom-outfitted railcar from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Eighty years later one of a pair of lungfish (neoceratodus forsteri) survives, named Grandad, and he is the longest-living fish in any aquarium or zoo in the world.

On 17 September 2013, the Hon. Roger Price, Consul-General of Australia to Chicago, saluted Grandad on the anniversary of his arrival in Chicago with a fun “proclamation”.

“Grandad is an ambassador for the conservation of his 100 million year old species,” the proclamation reads.

“The fish exemplifies the longstanding relationship between Shedd Aquarium and the Commonwealth Australia,” Mr Price said. “In 1994, Granddad was joined by five younger lungfish, a gift to Shedd from the University of Queensland and Australia’s Sea World. The Australian Government rarely allows specimens out of the country, and the gift was testament to the Shedd’s sound reputation in conservation circles.”

Publicity in North America and Australia around Grandad’s anniversary ¬†helped bring the Shedd Aquarium’s conservation messages to an estimated audience of over four million.

Grandad the lungfish appearing to pose for the camera at the Shedd Aquarium
Grandad the lungfish appearing to pose for the camera at the Shedd Aquarium