This is a brilliant and inventive set of ideas of how Newquay Zoo and its surrounding area may change by its 100th Birthday in May 2069.
It was written by members of our children’s club “Penguin Club” in 2004 for our 35th Birthday Time Capsule. A copy is included in this 2004 Newquay Zoo Time Capsule, buried on the woodland slope near our Dragon Maze.
This document has been released from our Newquay Zoo Archive as part of the countdown towards NZ50, our 50th Anniversary in May 2019. Watch this space and the Newquay Zoo website for more details www.newquayzoo.org.uk
Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, 26 May 2019 (Newquay Zoo’s 49th Birthday).
It’s Newquay Zoo’s 49th Birthday on Sunday May 26 1969 / 2018 and the start of the twelve month countdown to our NZ50 50th anniversary celebrations in May 2019.
Talk to historians and there are dates in B.C., there are dates ending in A.D. and other versions. Round here we ought to talk about B.N.Z. Before Newquay Zoo (which meant our zoo history started roughly around 1969). Add to this BITD Back in the Day and TW Time was and you are a proper historian!
Time was there was a small children’s zoo in Newquay before our 1969 Newquay Zoo site.
There is very little known about the ‘first’ Newquay ‘Zoo’, a children’s petting zoo over in the Rose Gardens section of Trenance Gardens, just over the road from the zoo today.
It operated as far as we know only in the summer, the animals returning in winter to Exmouth Zoo. It existed from probably the late 1950s through to 1968/9, when a separate permanent zoo (us!) was built by Newquay Urban District Council.
This first zoo was built by Charles Trevisick who ran the long-vanished Ilfracombe Zoo, it was taken over and run by West Country zoo man Ken Smith of Exmouth and Shaldon Zoo.
Charles Trevisick featured Newquay Childrens’ Zoo on only one page of his autobiography My Home Is A Zoo.
This seasonal ‘zoo’ was staffed in its latter years by the late Peter Lowe (formerly of Chester Zoo) who went on to become the designer and curator of our existing zoo.
Peter Lowe had technical support from T.D. (Tom) Hurley, the Borough Engineer for Newquay Urban District Council and advice from Chester Zoo founder George Mottershead (whose life story was recently told in BBC series ‘Our Zoo’). We wrote about Peter and George’s working relationship here: https://wordpress.com/post/worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/10699
Information on this first Newquay Children’s Zoo is pretty scarce.
Russell Tofts’ excellent book on Ken Smith, Animals in the Blood: The Ken Smith Story, subtitled “A Biography of Gerald Durrell’s Right-Hand Man” was published in April 2012. It has a precious couple of paragraphs about this first Newquay Children’s Zoo.
Charles Trevisick set up the Newquay Children’s Zoo over in the Rose Gardens area of Trenance Gardens in Newquay, a few minutes walk from our current site, probably in the late 1950s.
So Ken Smith took over the running and ownership of Newquay Children’s Zoo in its final years , 1966 / 1967. We gain a few clues as to what this first zoo looked like:
This mention of a Hyacinthine Macaw by Mike Curzon, a well known zoo curator bird keeper, is interesting, as one is pictured in our zoo section of a Newquay tourism guide of the time. They were pretty rare birds in zoos then and no record exists in the patchy Newquay Zoo index cards for macaws, parrots and other birds covering 1969-1976. This lack of a zoo record card suggest this valuable bird probably never transferred to Newquay Zoo and may have returned to Ken Smith when Newquay Children’s Zoo closed down c. 1969.
This bird is still listed as Endangered and part of an organised breeding programme in many zoos. Hyacinth macaw numbers are in decline as a result of habitat loss and over-collection for the illegal pet trade. It is estimated that at least 10,000 birds were taken from the wild in the 1980s:http://www.arkive.org/hyacinth-macaw/anodorhynchus-hyacinthinus/
Anyone recognise any of the people in these photos? Please let us know via the comments.
Current Newquay Zoo bird keeper Gary Ward and Curator John Meek checked the photo, used in several publications into The Newquay Zoo period (stock Newquay tourism colour photo?) and conformed that it is a Hyacinthine Macaw.
The leafy tree and white trellis background is also interesting. Roger Williams, our longest serving Newquay Zoo Keeper on and off since about 1970 didn’t recognise any of the people but thought that this may have been taken at the original Children’s Zoo in the Trenance Gardens as a publicity shot of some of the animals (monkey, macaw, rabbit).
Alternatively, the white trellis might be part of the original monkey walk, still preserved in the structure of our Nocturnal House.
Who knows? This colour picture with the Hyacinth Macaw may be currently our only picture of the original Newquay Children’s Zoo in the 1960s.
More on the first Newquay Children’s Zoo from Russell Tofts:
This passage by Russell Tofts suggests that the Newquay Children’s Zoo project was coming to a close. Russell Tofts mentions ‘council apathy’ towards its offspring and changing councillors.
Since the book was written in 2012, we now have some of Peter Lowe’s letters to George Mottershead at Chester Zoo (from the Chester Zoo archive) from about this time period as Peter prepared to take over the setting up of the new Council built Zoo. (we’ll publish these in a future blogpost) It seems that supportive councillors like Councillor ‘Jimmy’ J. Rogers had seen the possibilities for a permanent zoo and so had switched their interest and attention to this.
Trenance Gardens Today
Nothing remains of the first Newquay Children’s Zoo at the Rose Gardens site. Strolling up to Cheski’s wedding last month in May 2018, I photographed the lovely gardens on a Spring evening.
The Tolcarne Brick Seat has an interesting link to the current Newquay Zoo – it is the site of our African Savanna field, opened in 2009, was formerly a school playing field known as Little Wembley. It was built across a former brickworks, Tolcarne Brickwortks, whose distinctively marked bricks make up not only many local houses but also the Tolcarne brick seat in Trenance Gardens (lovely local touch this!)
The leisure activity in this area of Newquay seems to have grown from the founding of the Trenance Gardens in 1906 and the Trenance Bowling Club (founded in 1916).
We have a few glimpses of the Newquay Zoo site in its days as a farm and brickworks.
The Savanna field like much of the zoo appears to be brick clay, puddling easily and good for animal hoofmarks, not so good for hoof-care without drainage and hard standings.
Probably the best glimpse that we get is the photograph taken from the Viaduct by former Council head gardener Ernie Littlefield about 1968:
Compare this photo to Ernie Littlefield’s May 26, 1969 Opening Day photograph:
So there you go, the long and the short of it, the Back in the Day, B.N.Z Before Newquay Zoo.
Completing the Before Newquay Zoo trip back in time … glimpsed on my walk past the Rose Gardens, once home to the first Newquay Children’s Zoo, I walked aong the Gannel River, past Trethellan Farm field, prehistoric housing.
A possible prehistoric worked flint tuned up in the zoo flowerbeds back in 2003, spotted by zoo visitor Mike Solomon.
Strange to think that people have been visiting Newquay and living here for thousands of years, sometimes to watch animals … and occasionally hunt them for meat and fur. The threat to many of our rare animals today – an oddly full circle place to end our 49th Birthday blogpost.
Happy Birthday Newquay Zoo, 49 years old on Whitsun / Sunday the 26 May 2018.
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?
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.
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.
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. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0
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!
Himalayan or Asiatic Black Bears
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 http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22824/0
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.
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 …
There is a great picture of Norman Marshall the Head Keeper working with sealions , an archive photo loaned by Mrs. Marshall.
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 feeds – 2.45, 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.
Here are the Guide book listings from the 1970s / 1980s zoo guide, using the same postcard pictures:
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.