Christmas at Newquay Zoo 2001

Staff Christmas Carols at Newquay  Zoo 2001 (Newquay Voice article, 20 December 2001

2001. It was the year of George W. ‘Dubya’ Bush.

It was the  year Wikipedia was born –

2001. This was the year of Scrooge and a Christmas Carol at Newquay Zoo as  our Christmas theme. It had been a difficult year at Newquay Zoo.

It was the year of Foot and Mouth disease in the UK with zoo closures. Fuel Strikes … the September terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in America  on 9/11 … the invasion of Afghanistan … a Merry Christmas 2001 then!

Our Staff Carol Service 2001, open to the public, had a retiring collection that year in for overseas conservation projects, Marc Moase’s charity and  the support fund for rebuilding the newly liberated and badly war damaged Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan. Some of the staff and Newquay membership families (including from the RAF airbase at St Mawgan) had relatives involved in this conflict, so a tense time for many.

On the bright side, amongst the faces in the photo are young student volunteers from the first year  of our new partner college Cornwall College Newquay courses (still then  in temporary buildings on Treloggan Industrial estate). Skip forward to 2016,  it’s still going strong 15 years later in purpose built campus next to Newquay Zoo, with hundreds more students and many more wildlife and conservation courses. Some of our current keeping staff were Cornwall College students during these early years.

A happy moment of smiles and growly singing of carols relaxing together at the end of a difficult year.

Photo; from left to right standing:

Mark Macnamee (site), Steve Howard (gardens), Katie Pound (student volunteer), Neil? (Tropical House keeper), Gert (site), Jon Stark (student / keeper), ? (student volunteer), Ria (keeper), Mark ‘Cheski’ Tomaszewski (keeper), Nick Callender (keeper), John Meek (Animal Manager), Les Beckett (site), Wendy Winstanley (wildlife hospital / keeper), Mike Winstanley (keeper), Fred Thornhill (volunteer).

Kneeling at front: Michelle Turton (marketing / graphics), Mark Norris (education), Jane Oddy (retail). Newquay Zoo Christmas service 2001.

The sax playing Head Gardener at the time (referred to in the article)  may have been Claire Batten? (now a Chelsea Gold medallist with Penberth Plants.)

Looking back, many of these staff and students have moved on to successful careers and conservation work elsewhere. Some staff such as  Les Beckett have long retired, another, volunteer Fred Thornhill, has now passed away.

As our visitor membership and Newquay Zoo has grown up and changed, a few years ago  we stopped holding the Zoo Carol Service (hosted for many years by Reverend  Peter Long) as numbers attending slowly shrank from the prospect of singing outside on a cold dark December Sunday afternoon!

Three of the staff in the centre of the photo – Senior Keeper Mark Tomaszewski, Education Officer Mark Norris and Curator John Meek – still work here 15 years later (2016)  at Newquay Zoo, now run as part of charity by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Happy Christmas to our blog readers from the Christmas Past, Present and Future staff of Newquay Zoo!


Blogposted by Mark Norris for Christmas 2016 as part of our monthly blog of random photos or objects from our Newquay Zoo Archive, working  towards our 50th birthday / anniversary in May 2019.



Newquay Zoo Timeline 1969 –

Half a page is all Newquay’s ‘first’ zoo gets in founder Charles Trevisick’s autobiography My Home is a Zoo.


This Timeline content used to be on our Wikipedia article but is now illustrated and updated with fresh research


The ‘first’ Newquay Zoo?

Pre 1969  – a small petting zoo is established by Charles Trevisick and help from Ken Smith in the Rose Gardens area of Trenance Gardens and boating lake.

This closed in 1968/9 as the more permanent site  was built on former dairy farmland in the Trenance Gardens / valley area


(top) Early animals (Hyacinthine Macaw?, monkey, rabbit) at possibly the first petting zoo or very early Newquay Zoo from a mid to late 1960s guidebook


Newquay Zoological Gardens 1969

Whit Monday 26 May 1969 – Newquay Zoo opens to the Public, two days late. It is opened and operated by Newquay Urban District Council later (after 1974/5) to become Restormel Borough Council.

The opening day is covered in this blogpost:

Peter Lowe was the first Curator, formerly at Chester Zoo, and designed the overall plan of the site. He had the helpful advice of his former boss George Mottershead, letters between them have survived in the Chester Zoo archive, copies now placed in our  archives:

Record cards have survived from the first 6 years giving an idea of some of the species involved.

1969 70 NZ map
1969 Newquay Zoo Map

As you can see in  this map, Newquay Zoo is much smaller here. The whole top section and anything over the boundary of the stream running through the zoo was not part of the zoo at this time.

1969 70 NZ crop 5

1970/1 – Lion house added (this is still standing in 2016 housing Fossa)

Norman Marshall became Curator / Manager in the mid 1970s when Peter Lowe moved on.

By 1983 Newquay Zoo had expanded over the stream edge with the Maze, tarzan Trail and Waterfall and Water garden areas.

1983/5 guidebook map

In the 1983/ 85 some areas noted in the guidebook are still waiting to be developed such  as the Japanese Water Garden.

More details are referred to about development and rebuilding in the 1988/9 Children’s guidebook to the Zoo.

The remote control model boats (!) in the old Sea lion pool would soon give way to Penguins in 1988.


1988/9 guidebook information

This 1988/89 Map and Guide gives further clues to devel;opments or redevelopments, especailly devloping the area over the stream where the maze and Oriental agrden now are and in the top paddocks area. Numbers refer to the 1988/89 Guidebook Map.

1982/ 83 – Dragon Maze (Map no 21) designed by mazemaker Adrian Fisher

1983 – 1988 – Oriental Garden (Japnaese Water Garden)  developed, still in use 2016/17 and now home to Asian birds, Asian Otters and Owston’s Civets

1983 – 1988 – Activity play park area added at top part of Zoo (opposite camel paddocks.). Still in use 2016

1983 – 1988 – Tarzan Trail and big slide added (still in use 2016)

1983-88 – Monkey Walk redevloped into three enclosures (as it still is 2016/17) from its original 1969 design.

1987 – Tropical House rebuilt with second storey, aquarium and education centre.

1988 – Penguin Pool rebuilt (16) where Sea Lions once lived. Capybaras briefly  move into the former Penguin Pool area, before moving to the main lake c. 1993/4.

1988 – The children’s zoo redeveloped marked as Pets Corner (4) on the 1988/89 map.

1989 – Walkthrough Rabbit warren established, now Toad hall and the Red Panada enclosure.

The Zoo was briefly renamed in its later Council years ‘Newquay Animal World’ for a number of years (late 1980s to c. 1994/5) to match the new swimming pool / leisure facilities of WaterWorld next door.

1989 – Redevelopment of the Lion Enclosure (10 – Donkey Paddock ) opposite the 1970/1 original.

1996 Guidebook map

On the 1996 Map (top left at 18) a new Puma enclosure was being planned to replace the camel paddock, opening c. 1998 They were temporarily housed in the Old Lion House (13).

Wildlife at Night  has by 1996 replaced the coati house on the 1988/89 map.

A Pheasant enclosure (27) had been built in the Oriental Garden c. 1994/5

Newquay Zoo 1996 Guidebook editorial
Female Black Lemur, one of the rare Madagascan species and breeding programmes  based at the zoo c. 1996

In 1996 there was no second cafe at Tippy’s (named after our first tapir) at  Map No. 22, in 1996 it was still a Mongoose enclosure. There were no top toilets or baby changing facilities. These were developed over the next 2 to 3 years.

Pumas from the closed Haigh Mini Zoo in Wigan arrived C. 1993 and went into the old lion house until a new enclosure was built C. 1998/9 after extensive fundraising, the nclosure being opened by Jenny Agutter.

Around 1998/9 purpose built Portakabin classrooms were erected next to the new Puma House to run the Education Service, school workshops formerly being offered in the humid and steamy Tropical House!

Enter a caption



Cornwall College Newquay courses at FE and HE level  began to be offered from September 2000 onwards on former golf driving range on separately leased  land adjacent / opposite  the top part of the zoo.

Summer 2003 Guidebook as Newquay Zoo becomes part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Mike Thomas’ editorial in the 2002/3 Guidebook, his name covered by a sticker from August 2003-4 as Newquay Zoo becomes part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.

2001 – Newquay Zoo closes its doors for 3 to 4 weeks to visitors c.  February / March during the UK wide Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.

Foassa – New arrivals in 2003 for the updated guidebook.

2003 – Fossa arrive to take up residence in the Old Lion and Puma House.

August / September 2003 – Mike Thomas retires and Newquay Zoo becomes part of a scientific and educational wildlife charity, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust  with sister zoos at Paignton and Living Coasts.

We shall add more to this section 2003 – 2016 onwards over time.

2009 – As part of our 40th birthday year celebrations, opening of the Savannah area on the field next door and a new Asian / Phillipine deer, warty pig and fishing cat area redeveloping  the 1994/5 African Plains mixed enclosure.

December 2016 – Gems of the Jungle walk-through aviary opens on site of the original leopard house (see 9 on the 1969 map).

This timeline is being freshly updated from December 2016 using our archive materials.

Other Sources:

A brief summary of Newquay Zoo’s recent history is given here at our website.

  • from 1993 onwards under private ownership by Mike Thomas and Roger Martin
  • from 2003 as  a charity by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust :

An extensive and very personal view of Newquay Zoo from 1993 to 2003 is given in former Director Mike Thomas’ well illustrated book Strange Things Happened On My Way To The Zoo (Alison Hodge, 2010) available from bookshops or online sellers.


Posted by Mark Norris on the Newquay Zoo History WordPress blog, December 2016 .

Newquay Zoo Archive tribute to ‘Manuel’ Andrew Sachs RIP

Newquay Zoo’s last themed meal a Fawlty Towers / Farty Owls night (Newquay Voice article 19 December 2001)

What did you expect to see … A herd of majestic wilderbeast roaming across the  er … Zoo?

It was a great sadness to hear that the lovely Andrew Sachs, the actor who played Manuel in the brilliant BBC Fawlty Towers 1970s sitcom, has died aged 86.

As a small tribute here is an archive photo from our Newquay Zoo press cuttings folder, from 15 years ago, a Fawlty Towers themed meal night fundraiser  in December 2001.

Two of the ‘temporary catering staff’ for the night Manuel (Mark Norris)  and Basil (John Meek) are still at the zoo and remember a gathering of a few too many Manuels  … and an excellent meal by Richard our then-catering manager, served to some bemused but willing guests, which we did as best as the hotel management team and waiters to disrupt!


Photo from left to right of Newquay Zoo staff and volunteers by day, by night for one night only  Fawlty Towers staff –  waiters Manuel (Jane Oddy, Mark Norris, Natasha Llewelyn), Basil Fawlty (John Meek), Sybil Fawlty (Maree Myers) and waitress Polly   (Louise Aherne).

It was a great tribute to some loveable TV characters and a great way to let off steam after a difficult year – 2001 – that included fuel strikes and Foot and Mouth Disease which led to the zoo’s closure as a precaution for almost a month earlier in the year.


Looking Back, Looking Forward?

Who would have thought that two years later we would be celebrating our first Christmas as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust after  Zoo Director Mike Thomas retired in 2003? This means we are part of a wider conservation and zoo scientific education charity with our sisters zoos at Paignton Zoo  and Living Coasts in Torquay on the ‘English Riviera’ … Torquay, where Basil Fawlty had his notorious hotel!

Who would have thought that our play acting at anarchic and riotous  customer service by the ‘hotel management’ team and ‘waiters’ on that exhausting  Fawlty Towers night would in reality be part of a staff team that went on to win many Visitor Attraction awards including a Welcome Host Gold Accolade for Newquay Zoo from Visit Britain in 2015?

Who would have thought then that about eight years later in 2009 we would be opening our African Savanna on a disused former brick pit and playing fields – ‘Little Wembley’ – just across the lake from our original zoo Cafe-Bara, so that now you can see or hear a rare (small) herd of majestic wilderbeast roaming across the  Serengeti … er …Zoo?

Andrew Sachs, RIP, warmly remembered by chaotic customer service worldwide!

Posted by Manuel No. 2, Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive blogpost, December 2016.

Newquay Zoo and Princess Diana’s funeral 1997


I’m sure I shared the shock and disbelief with the rest of the country, possibly even the world, awaking early one Sunday morning to hear that Princess Diana had died in a car crash. It didn’t seem possible. It couldn’t be real. Was I actually awake? Had I heard it properly?

Many businesses closed for the day or the morning of the funeral service on Saturday 6 September 1997.

After long discussion, Mike Thomas (Zoo Director from 1993-2003) decided to keep Newquay Zoo open for the benefit of parents with young families etc., who needed an alternative to the solemnity and sadness of the funeral service. This was indeed welcomed by such small number of visitors who did visit that day. 20% of that day’s takings were donated to the Diana Memorial Fund.

I listened to parts of the funeral service with other staff gathered around the radio in the zoo office, in between feeding talks. Some of our feeding talks were postponed, so that the sound of our speakers did not disturb local remembrance services, just as we do on Armistice and Remembrance Sunday each year. A sad day. I still have that black ribbon issued to staff somewhere.

Not long after this, when the Queen Mum died, a bag piper played late one afternoon in the unlikely surroundings but excellent acoustics of our car park at the bottom of our Trenance valley. He’s playing his  lament, don’t disturb him, Mike said. As it echoed down the valley as our lion’s roar does, the piper was joined by a strange choir of animals, responding to the noise. Another slightly surreal moment …

I have spent long enough at Newquay Zoo to have observed a range of national and interstellar events such as Foot and Mouth Disease (twice),  fuel strikes, royal weddings, the Labour landslide election of 1997, the Solar Eclipse of 1999 and the non-event of the Millennium Bug, celebrated with champagne at work the next day for staff to welcome the new Millennium.

My penguin talks have been interrupted by the Battle of Britain Flight overhead, after the Eclipse whilst others have been to the distant musical backdrop of the Radio One Roadshow.

As the Internet became more and more part of our working lives, the shock of hearing the news of the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11 2001 and the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 remain clearly in mind. Brexit was another such talking point.

National event or not, rain or shine, snow or heatwave, our amazing zoo animals still need feeding and cleaning.

Ask me where I was during many major national and world events over the last 20 years and I usually know exactly where I was when I heard. The answer is usually sharing the shock and the initial misinformation or confusion of the news with Newquay Zoo colleagues. It’s as good a place to be as any!

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo.

This is the November 2016 post of our monthly blogpost for the Newquay Zoo Archive, being a random item or photo from our archive each month as we approach our zoo fiftieth birthday in May 2019.


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.

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.