The San Diego Zoo had established a reputation as an excellent facility that took great care of its animals, and Dr. Harry and Belle Benchley had many contacts around the world. Working with these contacts, Zoo staff members undertook several major expeditions to purchase and trade for animals, including Africa, South America, and Asia.
In 1940, Dr. Harry was once again on the move, taking an extended trip with bird curator Karl Koch (above) to Calcutta and Singapore to pick up animals the San Diego Zoo had negotiated for previously. They embarked in April, reaching Calcutta and spending several weeks gathering and moving the promised animals and making all the arrangements for crates, shipping, food, and everything else for the journey. Unfortunately, both Dr. Harry and Karl contracted malaria during their time in India. Then in sailing on to Singapore, they both also came down with pneumonia. With Dr. Harry’s heart condition, he was extremely ill, and he had to disembark at Japan to fly home early.
Karl managed to recover and carry on to complete the expedition in August, which resulted in many rare animals coming to the San Diego Zoo, some for the first time. Hippos, sun bears, red pandas, binturongs, orangutans, a clouded leopard, babirusas, gibbons, Malayan tapirs, and 300 birds—including parrots, hornbills, cranes, storks, pelicans, cassowaries, and fairy bluebirds—arrived to dazzle the citizens of San Diego.