Some of you might remember the wild Racoons that once used to live at Newquay Zoo.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
Zoo 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.
These fabulous photographs were lent from the collection of Mrs. Norman Marshall, wife of the 1970s / 1980s Newquay Zoo Curator / Head Keeper Norman Marshall.
Is this old logo a Pelican? We used to have Pelicans (and Flamingoes) in the zoo up till the early 1990s.
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.
Our 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 ‘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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
Some names are almost unreadable like this Finfish?
These signs are now all scanned so they can be carefully stored away for future generations to enjoy. Beautiful and well worth preserving.
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.
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!
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?
Extensive plumbing was found and removed whilst renovating this former and now forgotten aquarium section.
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”.
Posted by Mark Norris, newquayzoohistory blog / Newquay Zoo, June 2016
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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:
The Railway Viaduct is a great help in working out where some photographs were taken from.
Who 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.
The scene as it is today 2016, from tiny saplings to giant trees …
The 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