John Hagenbeck & Co. in Sri Lanka

John Hagenbeck & Co.


Owner 1890-1939: John Hagenbeck
First elephant arrived1884
Last elephant left1936
Closed down1939
Place Colombo
Country Sri Lanka


Key People -: John Hagenbeck Jr. (assistant director)


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John Hagenbeck & Co., in Colombo, Sri Lanka , was founded in 1890 and the first elephant arrived in 1884. The last elephant left in 1936. John Hagenbeck & Co. closed down in 1939.

Comments / picturesJohn Hagenbeck (1866-1940) was halfbrother to Carl Hagenbeck Sr. and assisted in the family company Firma Carl Hagenbeck by organizing the export of Ceylonese elephants through the Port of Colombo.

1884: John Hagenbeck went to Sri Lanka to buy elephants for Firma Hagenbeck, which he delivered in Hamburg.
1885: J.H. returned 1885 to Sri Lanka and lived there for 25 years, exporting tea, coffee and animals.
1890: J.H. established etablised John Hagenbeck & Co., ship furn. and animal trade.
1914: The property in Ceylon was repossessed and he was deported by the british in August 1914 during the First World War.
1918: John Hagenbeck established a film company, John Hagenbeck Film AG, in Berlin, which he left in 1923.
1923: J.H. returned to Sri Lanka and founded "Ceylon Zoological Gardens Company" where he kept animals before being shipped, which were also an open Zoo for visitors.
1924-1927: J.H. returned to Europe with a ship full of animals and show people, which he took on tour in Europe.
1927: returned to Sri Lanka and reestablished his trade with tea and animals.
1936: Ceylon Zoological Gardens Company in Dehivela was liquidated and the company confiscated as enemy property, which 1937 became Dehivela Gardens in Sri Lanka.
1939: J.H. and his his Sri Lankan born wife was put in Diyatalawa internment camp by the british.
1940: John died, 74 years old, in Diyatalawa internment camp in Colombo, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War.
John Hagenbeck left his wife and a son, John George Hagenbeck (1909-1959).

References for records about John Hagenbeck & Co.

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan (2023). John Hagenbeck & Co., Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

  • Funfundzwanzig Jahre Ceylon, by John Hagenbeck
  • Der deutsche Tropenwald: Bilder, Mythen, Politik, by Michael Flitner
  • Verbrecher und Versager: fünf Porträts, by Felicitas Hoppe

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