Where Raccoons once roamed in Newquay Zoo

Our Racoon moneybox on part of a ‘walk-through concrete tree stump’ that was part of the former Racoon enclosure.

Some of you might remember the wild Racoons that once used to live at Newquay Zoo.


Part of our former Racoon (now Meerkat) enclosure wall houses a curious concrete rocky cave with window dens that once housed young racoons.


For our October monthly blogpost from our Newquay Zoo archives, we look at our past racoon / raccoon enclosure. Now home to Meerkats, this enclosure was once home to Humboldt Penguins and briefly Capybaras, then Racoons.

One of the mementos  in our archive is a curious Racoon / dustbin moneybox combo.

Made of resin especially for our gift shop, probably few of these fragile items have survived the last 15 years.

Our racoon moneybox and a closer view of the strange rockwork wall.


Where meerkats now dig, racoons once washed their paws in a stream. The concrete stream bed is still visible, covered mostly in sand.


More Meerkat burrows under the old racoon stream bed and in the background the old racoon waterfall, now a useful sentry post  to the newest residents since 2009, our Meerkats.


But why the blue dustbin?

Enrichment has long been an important feature of looking after animals at Newquay Zoo.

A Racoon’s natural urban behaviour in America now involves raiding dustbins.

A flick through our press cuttings scrapbooks answers the question!



2001 a tough year but a good pic of racoons raiding enrichment dustbins for enrichment (pictured)

Feeding time was quite a thing to watch, although the racoons often seemed to sleep for much of the visitor day and bicker the rest.

We used to hide unusual food items for them to find in the blue enrichment dustbin and in their stream system that now provides an interesting burrow roof  for meerkat tunnels.

Racoons like to wash their food or catch food in water, their scientific name Procyon lotor based on a Native American name meaning ‘one who washes his paws’.

Pasties were occasional favourites to be hidden in the blue enrichment dustbin with the lid wedged on to make finding the food a little more  tricky.

Front cover stars of our Newquay Zoo Guidebook c. 2001/2 Photograph by Michelle Turton

Some of our Racoons had fairly wild or feral origins, escaped exotic pets that were brought in by the RSPCA, as these press cutting show.

Along with their Procyonid cousins the Red Pandas, they are notorious escape artists, being very clever or inquisitive  and very good climbers!



2002 another feral racoon joins us


2001/2 press cutting about one of our feral racoon’s origins.


If you come looking for racoons now at Newquay Zoo, you’re too late. Enrichment for our exotic and endangered animals continues, but the racoons have left.

Racoons were briefly first in the zoo from 1989-1996 then there were no more  until 1999. Over ten years our racoons moved off variously to Folly Farm Zoo Park, Combe Martin Wildlife Park and finally the last Racoons left for Beale Park in Hampshire, sometime around January 2009.

Out of the four Procyonid group of mammals that we once had at Newquay Zoo, Coatimundis, Kinkajous and Racoons have moved on but one important rare species remains – our Red Pandas who finally bred successfully in 2015/16. This long-awaited baby has moved off to another zoo to breed and the whole circle of conservation breeding carries on.

Posted by Mark Norris using information from the Newquay Zoo Archive and Press Cuttings books, Newquay Zoo, October 2016.


Author: worldwarzoogardener1939

World war zoo gardener and zoo educator at Newquay Zoo Cornwall UK

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