Hamilton Zoo bids farewell to founder

calendar iconPosted 9 August 2023

The Director and staff of Hamilton Zoo are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Murray Powell (1931-2023), the founder of Hamilton Zoo.

Murray and Gloria Powell established the Hilldale Game Park in December 1969. Birds made up the majority of residents in early years, followed by small mammals and eventually larger exotic species – such as puma and jaguar cubs.


Murray and Gloria Powell with a Jaguar Cub at Hilldale Game Park/Hilldale Zoo

By 1979 the park was registered as a Zoo, and had outgrown the pair, being too much to handle alone. The Powells sold the land to Hamilton City Council and gifted the animals and chattels. Murray continued to manage the Zoo under charitable trust when he could.


Murray and Gloria Powell signing a Memorandum of Transfer.


Hamilton City Council bought the Zoo outright in 1981, but the Powells still remained actively involved until 1983. Murray Powell has had a continued interest in Hamilton Zoo, being involved in many notable events such as when the first Rhinos arrived in 1999 and the 50th anniversary in 2019.

Many staff and visitors hold fond memories of Murray and this loss will be felt deeply in our community.

Murray was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in July 2020, for his contribution to wildlife conservation and the deer industry. An honour he humbly dedicated at the time to all supporters and contributors of/to the Zoo.

He was a strong believer that Zoos were a place for education and wildlife protection.

Both Murray and Gloria Powell’s legacy will live on at Hamilton Zoo.

Murray Powell with a Puma Cub and Dog at Hilldale Game Park/Hilldale Zoo