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.


Lions on leaflets at Newquay Zoo


The roar of publicity in 1969 (above) and  1996 …

animal world

How I remember delivering lots of this busy Newquay Animal World morning and afternoon feeding talk timetable c. 1996 …


The lion painted on the Animal World leaflets is probably based on our lion Ross (of 1970s Poldark TV era heritage) who arrived with a female Demelza in the late 1970s from a local St. Columb Major farm as a young lion, donated when the 1977 Dangerous Wild Animals Act came in. Here he is pictured on the back of the 1996 guidebook.

get closer

c. 2012/13 “Get Closer” strapline or slogan, photo stock lion photo …


2015 ”Something to Roar About” (or eat your family at Newquay Zoo)  further developed the “Get Closer” slogan.

What next for our current trio of lions?


Ticket to Newquay Zoo?

A colourful selection of vintage tickets for Newquay Zoo from the council zoo days.

These date from  before 2003 when we became the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust charitable trust run zoo that we are today. http://www.wwct.org.uk/

Nowadays (2016) we have digitickets available online:




zoo tickets
A selection of old Newquay Zoo tickets

Norman Marshall was our Head Keeper / Curator / Manger in the mid 1970s to 1980s.

We were still using surplus rolls of the pink and green tickets until recently as free tea vouchers on our Prams and Pushchairs type offseason discount  days.

Blogposted by Mark Norris from Newquay Zoo Archives on a  busy August school holiday day, 18 August 2016.

Where’s our Mini Van ORL 649M now?

zoo van crop

The Newquay Zoo mini van c. 1970s (photo courtesy of Mrs. Norman Marshall, wife of curator Norman Marshall / Newquay Zoo collection)

The famous Newquay Zoo Mini van ORL649M readied for the Newquay carnival sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.

We still take part sometimes in the Newquay Carnival, just as we will this weekend, usually with a dressed up zoo van or vehicle and staff in costume. So nothing much has changed!

Why the Chimpanzees?

Looking after Chimpanzee groups today in zoos is now very, very different from the 1970s. The Chimp’s Tea Party  reference is an interesting one. Anyone growing up in the 1960s and 1970s will be familiar with Chimps on tea advertising and featured in tea parties at famous zoos.

The Zoo had two Chimpanzees from  its early days into the mid 1980s. A female  arrived ‘presented’ by Bristol Zoo in May 1969 and was  joined by a male from Paignton Zoo in July 1969. They feature in our guidebooks well into the late 1980s along the Monkey Walk.  (They had gone by the Newquay Zoo Children’s Guide of 1989).


zoovancolourZoo marketing in its early days!

Look at all the Trenance Leisure Park Gardens attractions  shown such as the Biergarten at Waterworld.

The chimp on the toboggan? The Toboggan run (now closed) below where Wooden Waves skate park now stands.

All these 1970s and 1980s attractions were an evolving part of the original Council  planned Leisure Park – it is still a vibrant corner of Newquay today.

zoo van crop

These fabulous photographs were lent from the collection of Mrs. Norman Marshall, wife of the 1970s / 1980s Newquay Zoo Curator / Head Keeper Norman Marshall.

council zoo logo van
Close up of the council zoo logo

Is this old logo a Pelican? We used to have Pelicans (and Flamingoes) in the zoo up till the early 1990s.

zoo pelican logo

Where is that Mini van ORL649M now?

Still on the road and doing the Riviera Run to the West Country or gone to the scrap heap in the sky? We would love to know!

Carnival has been great fun over the years and a joy to see which Newquay group is poking fun at which bit of Newquay! Remember the now vanished dancing willow women figures on Trenance Boating Lake? Three ladies dressed in a few rush beach mats on the back of a float was one great satirical comment on these controversial artworks.

We still take part sometimes in the Newquay Carnival, usually with a dressed up zoo van and staff in costume. So nothing much changed!

Any surviving photos from staff collections will be a great subject for a future Newquay Zoo History blogpost …

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blogpost, July 2016


If you’re too young to remember Chimp’s Tea Parties, here is a (1920s/30s?) London Zoo postcard from my zoo collection.

chimps teaparty zsl


Under the Sea at Newquay Zoo

living coral reef page 1989 guide .jpgOur Aquarium section at Newquay Zoo has very few records. It appears there were aquarium tanks or sections at two different stages of the zoo’s history.

Some visitors have mentioned a possible first aquarium area of which I have found no trace or existence on our zoo maps (see previous blogpost). The first aquarium or vivarium type tanks I know of were  in the first one story Tropical House (1969 – c.1987) about which we know very little. There are no index cards from 1969-75 for fish, only  a few for toads.

Our first Tropical House, 1969 Photos; Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.


1969 then and now tropical house 2

Our ‘Second’ Aquarium

We know our second version was in the ‘new’ Tropical House.  I helped dismantle its second version in the back room of the c. 1987 Tropical House after about ten years in 1996/97. We created  a Minibeasts Room for bugs and indoor animal encounters, which has just been redeveloped (2016).

Newquay Zoo Tropical House, built 1987 (Photo, Mark Norris, 2016)

The aquarium had been closed and drained for over a year at least when I helped empty and demolish this aquarium c. Winter 1996.

Lowering myself through the loft hatch into the tanks to remove the rocks and gravel, I made one startling discovery in the inch or two of water that remained.  One surprisingly feisty Jack Dempsey Cichlid fish had escaped notice!

This lively fighting fish  lived on in a new tank for several years afterwards, displaying to new rivals.

What animals were once part of this Aquarium?

We have some clues to help recreate this vanished undersea world at Newquay Zoo.

The Newquay Zoo ‘colour in’ Children’s  Guidebook c. 1989 has a brilliant  page showing what was in the Aquarium tanks. In one tank were Piranhas (glad none of those had escaped notice and survived when I was clearing their tank!) In another were  Axolotls.

In the main Living Coral tank were Starfish, Sea Anenomes, Green Chromis, Long-nosed Hawkfish, Orange Clownfish, Hermit crabs, Blue Damsel fish, Sergeant Majors, Black Footed Clown fish, Clams, Sea Apples and Corals.

Some colour signs survive with clues to our former aquarium tanks:


We have some standard http://zoosign.com  aquarium signs  (commercially available, based on Chester Zoo signs) from the 1980s or 1990s. Interesting chatting to Stewart Muir, our Director of Living Collections at all three of our zoos, as he painted some of the small mammals signs for this series but can’t take the credit for the aquarium ones.

banded pipefish

However we have some much older looking signs, which appear hand-painted or maybe transfers. We have scanned these as they are growing delicate,  paint is now flaking and the varnish yellowing with age.

The backs with pencil scrawl “Newquay” are still as white as the day they were painted or printed.

Newquay fish sign back

We have very  gently cleaned them up from their muddy state, probably from years in a store space where they were found abandoned a few years ago. Whilst some have suggested they belonged to an original Harbour Aquarium in Newquay, we are fairly sure they were once part of Newquay Zoo. They match some of the species in the 1989 Newquay Zoo Children’s Guide.

Some like the Spotted Shrimp sign we have scanned ‘as found’ to show some of the dirt!

Some of these species like Green Chromis appear in the 1989 Guide / Living Coral Reef tank.

spotted shrimp uncleaned
Spotted Shrimp sign, Newquay Zoo aquarium – uncleaned as found


boxer shrimp

Some have no names (Nemo!) but are easily recognisable as Clownfish, made popular by Finding Nemo.


Some have no names – the labels were possibly done by hand in Letraset!

green fish .jpg

clown sweetlips.jpg

false gramma



Some names are almost unreadable like this Finfish?

green chromis



yellow seahorse

yellowtailed damselfishThese signs are now all scanned so they can be carefully stored away for future generations to enjoy. Beautiful and well worth preserving.

Redesigning Signage

We used some of these beautiful  signs this month with Redruth School. These students were visiting to look at enclosure design but also how information is presented in the Zoo, showing a range of signs from the 1970s up till our current signs. Students liked them but found them very limited in information.

We are currently designing the next range or generation of Newquay Zoo signs, working with our graphics team at Paignton Zoo.

Fish signs have returned to the Tropical House in 2016, newly  designed with our graphics team at Paignton Zoo. Panda garra sign, Newquay Zoo Tropical House.

No aquarium photos have yet been found in our archive  of the Aquarium tanks or Living Coral Reef tank in the Tropical House. Admittedly aquariums are hard to photograph being full of  darkness and glass but hopefully some photos will one day turn up. If you have some, we would love to share pictures of the old Newquay Zoo Aquarium on this site.

Where Fish Swam

This whole back room of the former aquarium has been rebuilt throughout spring and summer 2016 by Dave and our Maintenance team and Tropical House keepers Gareth O’Dare and Eva Fowler.

It looks brilliant, even lovelier than  when we redesigned it all in 1997. Well worth popping in to have a look!

Where the central Living Coral tank once stood in our Tropical House, a huge poison dart frog tank stands today. New reptile, amphibian and invertebrate enclosures have now been beautifully rebuilt. (Photo during building  May 2016: Mark Norris)

It’s very busy and too popular in there to photograph at many times of the day but I will post another completed picture of this new room and what once used to be there soon!

A last aquarium legacy?

Amphibian Breeding Centre window, Pump Room, back of 1987  Tropical House, Newquay Zoo (photo: Mark Norris)  

Extensive plumbing was found and removed whilst renovating this former and now forgotten aquarium section.

Inside the Pump Room, once full of big filter tanks and pipes, now home to our Amphibian Breeding Centre, Tropical House, Newquay Zoo. Photo: Mark Norris

Its name however  lives on in one curious room at the back of the Tropical House, featuring the Amphibian Breeding Centre window onto our endangered amphibian breeding area. This was once home to massive UV and other filtration  and pumping equipment. This is still known to staff  as the “Pump Room”.

The Door to Adventure (KEEPERS ONLY) – the ‘Pump Room’ at the back of the Tropical House, Newquay Zoo. Photo: Mark Norris.  

Posted by Mark Norris, newquayzoohistory blog / Newquay Zoo, June 2016

An early 1969 Newquay Zoo Map

Thanks to John Adams of the Bartlett Society  we have received a copy of our earliest known Newquay Zoo map from 1969.

1969 70 NZ map
1969 era Newquay Zoo guide map (courtesy of John Adams)

We had a little glimpse of this 1969 zoo layout in Ernie Littlefield’s photograph taken from the railway viaduct. The Little Western Railway was already established in the foreground along with ample car parking.


Before this, our earliest Newquay Zoo map in our zoo archive was the Newquay Zoo Children’s Guide c. 1989!

1969 70 NZ crop 5
Close up of the animal ‘core’ of  Newquay Zoo, 1969.


A few surprises which aren’t in our patchy record cards from 1969 – otters are marked at map No. 6 where Tippy’s café now stands. I last remember this space with animals  c. 1994-5 as an (escaping) mongoose exhibit, before it changed to become a café named after its new neighbour, our first Brazilian Tapir c. 1996.

tippys 1999
Our first Tippy’s café in 1999, still with the surrounding wall perhaps of the original 1969 Otter enclosure, then aviary 1985, later Mongoose 1990s enclosure. (Photo 1999 Mark Norris)


What’s not on the Newquay Zoo Map in 1969?

The western boundary to the 1969 / early 1970s Newquay Zoo is the stream which now cuts through the zoo.

A few surprises looking at the 1969 map:

No ‘old’ penguin enclosure where Meerkats now dig.

No ‘old’ lion house where Harry the Fossa now sleeps.

According to Roger Williams, one of our longest serving keepers who worked here as a young man c. 1970-1974 (before a long  ‘career break’, returning to Newquay Zoo over 25 years later), the ‘old’ lion house was being built c. 1970/71.  (It is now the Fossa House).

Roger thinks that the Lions which arrived from Bristol Zoo in 1969 (Queenie and Charlie?) occupied one side of the Leopard enclosure (No. 9 on the 1969 map) until their enclosure was finished c. 1971. Pumas replaced Leopards c. 1973 by which time the Lions were in their own house.

bactrian camel 1970s
Bactrian Camel from our 1970s/80s guidebook (Newquay Zoo Archive)


The paddocks for camels (where Carpathian Lynx now live) appeared around June 1973,  when 2 Bactrian Camels appeared from the declining Belle Vue Zoo Manchester.

The Carpathian Lynx (1990s Puma enclosure) and Education Centre now occupy this space.


1970s penguin pool NZ
Humboldt Penguins from our 1970s / 80s guidebook, with in the background the Camel Paddock. (Newquay Zoo Archive)


Probably the ‘old’ Penguin Pool (now home to Meerkats!) appeared by or circa. 1973/4 when 6 more Humboldt Penguins arrived in September 1973.

Roger Williams isn’t sure where the first 2 penguins lived  (donated by Newquay councillor Mr Rogers at the Bay Hotel from off the local golf course, but that’s another story). In some zoos in the past like Rode Bird Gardens and Exmoor Zoo, Humboldt Penguins lived in a freshwater lake with other Wildfowl.

Shetland ponies from the Sherberton Stud moved in over the stream onto paddocks / pasture where our Dragon Maze now stands (to the left of the Flamingo and Waterfowl lake).

For several years the zoo’s edge and natural boundary was the stream.

The 1969 Chester Zoo sourced Bison ‘on the Hill’ left the zoo for Sherwood Zoo in 1973 – look out for a forthcoming blogpost on these animals who lived where the Pitch and Putt now runs.

The Guidebook format is an A3 colour sheet folded over with map on reverse.

1969 70 NZ map 2

Looked at rightways up the Guide Map reveals some interesting clues about the opening season / early years of the zoo.

Animal feeding was allowed  by the public for a surprisingly large number of animals including fruit or nuts thrown down into the Bear Pit.

A surprisingly early warning about the environmental dangers of plastic bags!

1969 70 NZ crop 3
Newquay Zoological Gardens Guide Map c. 1969 Courtesy of John Adams


1969 70 NZ crop 4
Guide to Newquay Zoological Gardens c. 1969 (Courtesy of John Adams)

The photographs such as Bison and Sealions are courtesy of (i.e. taken at) other zoos such as Chester Zoo, suggesting that this is a very early guide map prepared before these animals were properly in place.

Newquay Zoo still opens at 10 a.m. We still open all year round except Christmas Day. The other surprise was the OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND, something I thought was introduced c. 1994 when I first began to work with Newquay Zoo. The debate over the success of year round winter opening appeared in very early press cuttings held at the zoo.

John Adams also sent an image of the 1970s/80s Newquay Zoo guidebook map, c. 1983-85,  which allows you to compare the two and the progress over our first 15 years.

Best looked at sideways to compare with the 1969 version,  you can see much more development over the stream (18-22)  into the Dragon maze area and Tarzan Trail and past the Bear Pit at the top paddock end of the zoo  (9 – 14).

We will feature more comparison maps and guidebooks of the zoo over forthcoming blogposts.

1983/85 guidebook Newquay Zoo version with a map  (courtesy John Adams) – rare beasts like remote radio  controlled boats had replaced sealions!


‘Bison on the hill’ is the subject for a forthcoming blogpost. We mentioned more on our sister blog in 2014: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/george-mottersheads-trip-from-our-zoo-at-chester-zoo-to-newquay-zoo/

Just off to obtain some refreshment from our Zoological Café, still there, still serving but slightly bigger …


Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, May 2016.

Picturing the building of Newquay Zoo 1969 then and now

1969 then and now lake road 2
Newquay Zoo Lake Road Then and Now 1969 /2016 – black and white photo Ernie Littlefield, colour photo Mark Norris
1969 then and now tropical house 2
Newquay Zoo then and now photos Tropical House and Monkey Walk then 1969 (Ernie Littlefield), now 2016 colour Mark Norris.


Ernie Littlefield was the Parks Superintendent for Newquay Urban District Council in the 1960s and 1970s, so effectively Newquay Zoo’s first head gardener.

Ernie  also cared for the Trenance Gardens and Rose Gardens around the famous Trenance Boating lake. This was the area where the first fledgling ‘Newquay Children’s Zoo‘ was created by Charles Trevisick and Ken Smith in the late 1950s / early 1960s until Newquay Zoo was built on its present site in 1968/69. For more details of this period  see our Wikipedia timeline and future blogposts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newquay_Zoo

Taken over near our Lake Road and Maze end of the zoo:  Mud and more mud as the zoo site develops 1968 / 1969 Photo Courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.

Black and white photos are all  courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo collection.

Ernie and his team of gardeners laid out the formal planting of Newquay Zoo in 1968/69.

Long after Ernie’s retirement, one of his 1968 young trainee gardeners Michael (or Mike) Perry was still caring for it until his retirement in the late 1990s.

Now retired, Michael Perry was one of life’s gentlemen and a gentle gardener,  who remembered Ernie kindly as a hard task master but an excellent teacher with very, very high standards.

1999 30 birthday Littlefield
92 year old ‘Head Gardener’ Ernie Littlefield returns to the Zoo he planted in 1969 for our 30th birthday hosted by our then Zoo Director Mike Thomas  (from the Newquay Zoo press cuttings c. 26 May 1999)


I was fortunate enough to meet Ernie Littlefield (but sadly only the once) when he returned to Newquay Zoo in 1999 on our 30th birthday to cut our birthday cake and review how his planting was faring 30 years on.

“When I first visited the site it was uninteresting meadows with a whole lot of diseased elm trees … Now visitors have a lovely show.” Ernie Littlefield, 1999

Newquay Zoo Opening Day May 26 1969 photo courtesy of Ernie Littlefield


I knew of Ernie Littlefield as gardener through the planting around me at the Zoo. I knew of Ernie’s other passion through his son  John Littlefield who ran the beautifully landscaped Pitch and Putt golf course opposite the Zoo entrance (where our Bison used to roam in the 1970s, but that’s another story).

Ernie’s other passion was photography, photographing the zoo in black and white as it was built in 1968/69.  Strangely photography was a passion that Michael Perry, cheerfully recording the changing zoo and its staff into the 1990s. (His zoo collection is now in private hands in Newquay).

ACE engineering staff putting mesh on our vanished Walk Through Aviary, Newquay Zoo 1969 – the Newquay gasometer at Trocadero has also gone. Photo courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo


1969 then and now walkthrough aviary 2016 gems
Building the new ‘Gems’ walkthrough aviary 47 years on just to the side of the old aviary, Gems of the Jungle site, Newquay Zoo May 2016.



1969 then and now walkthrough aviary
From within one old former walkthrough aviary to the modern version – Gems of the Jungle – under construction Newquay Zoo May 2016. Photo Mark Norris.


Some of the old photographs are interesting as we rebuild modern versions of original enclosures for modern zoo uses.

A  few yards from the old 1969 Walk Through Aviary is the site of the old 1969  leopard / puma and later macaw aviary,  demolished last year to make way for the new Gems of the Jungle walkthrough aviary opening later this year, home to colourful endangered Asian songbirds.

1969 walkthrough aviary alex charity .jpg
The ‘old’ Walkthrough Aviary 1969 when new, Newquay Zoo (now dismantled and nicknamed the Secret Garden). Keeper probably Alex Charity. Photograph: Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo Collection.

It’s been a muddy winter to build through, so nothing has changed much since 1969.

Here are some more of Ernie Littlefield’s photos of the zoo being built in winter 1968 and spring 1969:

Edging enclosures at Newquay Zoo – possibly the central deer area?  1969 Photo Courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.


1969 then and now deer paddock
The same edging can still be seen today around the central deer area, now with the world’s rarest deer the Prince Alfred’s Spotted Deer from the Visayan islands of the Philippines. Photo Mark Norris.

1969 then and now deer paddock 2


Looking down the Lake Road towards the Zoo Entrance and railway viaduct Newquay Zoo  May 1969.  Photo Courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.

1969 then and now lake road

1969 then and now lake road 2

The Railway Viaduct is a great help in working out where some photographs were taken from.


littlefieldtrophouseWho is that happy child? The original one storey Tropical House, original Monkey Walk and Children’s Zoo, Newquay Zoo 1969.These tiny saplings are now great trees. Photo courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.

1969 then and now tropical house 2

The scene as it is today 2016, from tiny saplings to giant trees …


zoo70scafeThe Zoological Café as it was then known. A colour tourism guide photograph (early 1970s) of Ernie Littlefield’s planting around the  original Zoo / Trenance Gardens café, Newquay Zoo. Parking by the tennis courts can just be glimpsed.

Happy 47th Birthday Newquay Zoo for 26 May 2016.

Look out for more random photos and items each month for our archive as we work towards our 50th anniversary on May 26 2019.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History Blog, May 2016