Newquay Zoo Wedding 2018

Congratulations to long serving Newquay Zoo Keeper Mark Tomaszewski  (‘Cheski’) on his marriage to Claire Organ.

Cheski joined us as a Keeper in our Council Zoo days c. 1982/3.

Claire is a former Newquay Zoo staff member and volunteer, early member of   Penguin Club c. 1990s and one of the first cohort of Cornwall College Newquay students when it opened in 2000.

I dug out a couple of younger pictures of Cheski and Claire from our Zoo Archive:

Claire Organ bugs 1999
Claire Organ at a Newquay Zoo Bugs event c. 1998-2000


photos MN Claire Organ Mike Kent 2001
Cornish Guardian photos January 2001



Cheski lemur
Cheski pictured in Mike Thomas’ zoo memoir, Strange Things Happened On My Way to The Zoo.


Cheski (centre stage) in the “keepers choir” (Christmas 2001?) Newquay Zoo.

Our very best wishes from all the Newquay Zoo staff past and present on your wedding and your future happiness!

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, 26 April 2018





A trio of Newquay Zoo Postcards and Record Cards 1970s


lion record card
Newquay Zoo African Lion Record Card (Newquay Zoo Archive)
african lion PC 1970s
African Lions (Cotman / Jarrold postcard SNZ1)

I recently picked up a trio of vintage postcards of early 1970s Newquay Zoo animals. These are postcards printed using photos from the eventual 1970s / 80s Guidebook. Most of the Newquay Zoo postcards that I have found are also doubled up in the Zoo Guidebook.

How do these link in with our other records of our early animal inhabitants?

African Lions

We still have African Lions at Newquay Zoo (2018). Our first two Newquay Zoo lions  moved in 1969 into what has now become the site of our new Gems of the Jungle aviary, before the Lion House was built c. 1970/1.

According to long serving Keeper Roger Williams, our first lions  were known as Queenie and Charlie.

This new / old 1970 Lion House building housed  Pumas in the 1990s, then Fossas from 2003-2017.

Now almost 50 years old, it will soon be taken down (April / May 2018)  pending further use. Before it comes down, I have photographed it as I did for the old Puma / Leopard House / Aviary that became Gems of the Jungle. I have also roughly measured it as well, dens and all! This will feature in a future blogpost.

From the Record card,  it appears Queenie and Charlie were presented by Bristol Zoo (i.e. like animal transfers today, no money changed hands). These may have been older animals as in March 1973 the male (Charlie?) died of radial (limb) paralysis.

A new four year old Lion male and female arrived from the now closed Sherwood Zoo  (1968 – 1976) for £500 a pair.

Very briefly for a few months we had three lions, the elderly female (Queenie?) passing away in January 1974.

1970s Guidebook cover sacn


A Lion featured with a Scarlet Macaw on the front of our 1970s guidebook.

A forthcoming blog post will try to set out as clear a timeline of our Newquay Zoo Lions as best I can research.

NZ Chinese leopard record card 1969
Chinese Leopards Record card (Newquay Zoo Archive)

Chinese Leopards

Our pair of Chinese leopards were bought in  May 1969 from London Zoo ‘surplus’ livestock for 180 guineas a pair. This was all “back in the day” before cooperative breeding programmes for endangered species were widely in place between zoos, such as we have today. The leopards were soon replaced in 1973 by Pumas, after the female leopard was euthanized.

Where South-East Asian birds now stroll and fly in our new walk-through Gems of the Jungle,  Chinese Leopards once prowled and growled (next door for a short time to Lions, then Pumas).

It is not recorded  which sub-species of Chinese Leopard our  pair were.  Chinese Leopards today are increasingly threatened (Vulnerable IUCN Red Data List) by habitat loss and hunting.

We have a modern copy of a back-dated ZIMS record from London Zoo which suggests that Cleo the female (LON 7 or 0080, b. Oct 1968) and male (b. 1968 LON 7 0079) left London Zoo on 2 May 1969 and may have been brother and sister,  who arrived here very young. It may explain why they did not (thankfully!) breed. Assuming of course that the ZSL London Zoo sire and dam record is correct.

The female Chinese Leopard (Cleo?) died or was euthanized on 3rd  May 1973.

Talking to Roger Williams and Mark ‘Cheski’ Tomaszweski, she may have had a form of cancer or Feline Leukaemia. No cause of death is given on our record card, very different from the extensive medical records and post-mortem information gained today from an animal’s life and death.

The remaining male Chinese Leopard was sold or exchanged for four Pumas ( 1 male / three females) with Ravensden Zoo (c. 16 -18th August 1973). This was obviously the exchange rate as no money transaction is recorded. Roger Williams thinks the male Chinese Leopard may have been called Raj.

One Chinese Leopard equals four Pumas!

Ravensden Zoo Company was once a well known animal commercial ‘exchange venue’ or ‘clearing house’ between zoos for ‘surplus’ livestock from about 1961  onwards (Ravensden Zoological Co / Ltd closed c. 2000?).

The four Pumas of 1973 were housed on both sides of this house from 1973, the Lions having moved out. The male Puma having proved an awkward male, you could separate him off using the dens and two sides of the enclosure.

Later in the mid 1990s three new pumas Shane, Tina and Jethro arrived from other closed zoos like Haigh Mini Zoo in Wigan.  They went into the old 1970 Lion house whilst we fundraised for the Puma House (which now houses Lynx). I hope you’re following all this change!

chinese leopard and bear PC 1970s
Chinese Leopards and Himalayan Bears (Cotman / Jarrold postcard SNZ3)

Himalayan or Asiatic Black Bears

bear record card

The whole story of the Himalayan bears arriving from a pub named the Bear in  Hodnet, Shropshire will feature in a forthcoming blogpost. A fascinating story that Keeper Roger Williams remembers well.

Himalayan or Asiatic black bears (Selenarctos thibetanus) are now listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red Data list. Their endangered status is mostly due to habitat loss and the Asian bear parts and bile trade

Chatting to long serving Keepers Roger Williams and Mark Tomaszewski, Three of these first four bears were called Chunky, Jemima and young Marion (who died 1982/3). One of these four, a female bear arrived from Bideford  after the short-lived Bideford Zoo closed (opened 29 May 1966 – closed 17 Oct 1970).

After the brief information on the record card, we only have a post-mortem record for Chunky. I remember the last of these, a partially-sighted old female called Chunky,  who passed away from old age / euthanized c. January 1995.

Chunky is not the kindest of names for a lady bear! Bears could once freely be fed peanuts or fruit by the public, according to the 1969 Guide and Map. No more – this was obviously in the days before today’s strict nutritionally balanced diets.

1969 70 NZ crop 3
You may feed the Bears … but not with dangerous plastic bags. Newquay Zoo Guide Map 1969. Interesting it says “Open all the Year Round”??


Californian Sealions

back of 70s PC
Each Newquay card had a code or ref number SNZ2

Californian Sea lions Zalophus californianus are currently Least Concern on the IUCN Red Data List.

Sealions 1970s PC .jpg
Californian Sealions Newquay Zoo early 1970s (Cotman / Jarrold postcard SNZ2)

sealions record card

Two female Sea Lions arrived in June 1969 from Tysley Pet stores in Birmingham, the month after the zoo opened. A pair of females cost £350 pound shillings and pence (LSD / or guineas) in 1969. A male Californian sealion  joined them in March 1971 from Ravensden Zoological Company for £175, obviously the same going rate for Californian Sealions at the time, even after decimal currency was launched mid  February 1971.

No successful breeding is recorded by the time the male sealion died in October 1975.

Where did the female Sealions go? I don’t currently know. These record cards only last into the mid 1970s and we have a bit of a records gap from then on into the 1980s.

The Californian Sealions eventually passed or moved away and the pool became home for a time to remote control model boats (!) from the early 1980s until it became a Humboldt Penguin Pool again, as it has been for at least the last 25 to 30 Years.

Roger and Mark think at some point a species of seal may have briefly been in residence, before penguins.  Where the Penguins lived in 1969 before their pool was built in the early 1970s  (currently home to Meerkats) is  unclear at present. That is another story …


1969 70 NZ map
Newquay Zoo 1969 Guide and Map showing where Sealions and Lions and Bears (Oh my!) were once housed.


There is a great picture of Norman Marshall the Head Keeper working with sealions , an archive photo loaned by Mrs. Marshall.

Norman Marshall sealions Marshall family pic
Norman Marshall Head Keeper 1970s with Sealions (Scanned photograph in Newquay Archive on loan from the Marshall family)

This baccy tin is obviously a very early form of sealion enrichment and training!

The Californian Sealion in their 1970s / 80s guidebook description is rather grandly  “ranked amongst the most attractive of  Zoo exhibits”. 

As you can see, c. 1969 Guide leaflet and map, there were three sea lion feeds2.45, 3.45. 4.45 – obviously a popular event. Bears (3pm) and Leopards (3.15pm) were also daily public feeds except Leopard starve day on Friday.


1969 70 NZ crop 4
1969 Guide Book and Map – Feeding times. Some of these photos are borrowed from Chester and Colchester Zoo


Here are the Guide book listings from the 1970s / 1980s zoo guide, using the same postcard pictures:


Some of our early Bears from the 1970s guidebook.



Interesting how little information is mentioned about ‘Conservation’, in fact this would wait until the Newquay Zoo Children’s Zoo Guide of 1989 and our 1996 Guide Book.

Another nugget of Newquay Zoo history trivia!

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, April 2018.