Some of the stranger sights seen on the Half Round and from The Bus Shelter include the International World Pasty Flinging Championships (event currently resting, 2017).
Running alongside the Bus Shelter on the steep wooded bank above the Half Round / Maze Road is a native wildlife area.
This wild wooded bank area is home at one end to our 2004 / 2009 Newquay Zoo Time Capsule.
The strangest inhabitants along the Half Round or Maze Road in the past were a ‘lively’ family of free-ranging rare Cotton Top Tamarins, released c. 1996 for a few years on wildness training into the treetops around their house on stilts built amongst these trees. But that is another story …
Another quite little corner of Newquay Zoo’s history explored and recorded.
We will feature the Dragon Maze (built 1982/3) in a future blogpost.
As we approach our 50th Birthday in May 2019, we would love to hear your Newquay Zoo memories and see your early zoo photos. Contact us via the comments box.
Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, November 2017.
A lazy blogpost for October 2017 – If you want to read one person’s entertaining view of Newquay Zoo’s history from 1993-2003, then this is the book to read.
Strange Things Happened On My Way To The Zoo by Mike Thomas
Published in 2010 by Cornish publisher Alison Hodge, copies are still available on Amazon, your local library and there are some good online bargains on second-hand copies.
‘Strange Things’ is the nearest thing we have to a Newquay Zoo history in print so far, albeit only covering the Newquay Animal World / Newquay Zoo years of private ownership from 1993-2003 by Mike Thomas and Roger Martin.
Mike grew up in Wales, taught in Cornwall, ran several businesses and eventually ran the Seal Sanctuary in Gweek until 1993/4. As a result, Newquay Zoo’s part of the Mike Thomas story only begins 56 pages in but fills the rest of the 100 odd pages of pictures, many of the pictures by zoo photographer Michelle Turton.
There is too much to summarise in these 100 pages but it covers the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, the Red Arrows ‘visit’, the 1999 Eclipse, various famous faces opening new enclosures, several years tracking down the truth behind the local Exotic Big Cat stories, along with many special animal births and a few sad partings.
I knew Mike and Jenny before they took on the zoo and when it first reopened, I was soon added to the small staff team, mostly in my case to set up a Zoo / College partnership and develop the promising schools work.
I’m mentioned in passing and pictured in the book, and was proud to attend the book’s launch at Fowey Literary Festival 2010 with fellow zoo college colleague and Alison Hodge author Dr. Mike Kent. Mike, Mike and I worked on the founding partnership of Cornwall College Newquay courses.
Gerald Durrell’s influence from Jersey Zoo is recognised in the book and also in the name of one of our college buildings.
Mike Thomas, ever the former teacher, mentioned on his retirement in 2003 that this college partnership was one of his proudest achievements of his ten zoo years.
Now properly retired, Mike and his wife Jenny still pop in to the zoo quietly from time to time with various grandchildren to see how things have developed under the charitable trust ownership of the Whitley Wildlfe Conservation Trust, which took over running Newquay Zoo in 2003. He is especially pleased how Cornwall College Newquay has grown and thrived since its beginnings in the year 2000.
My Amazon review at the time of the launch (2010) proabably says all I have to say about the book:
“Like others who’ve read & reviewed the book, this was revisiting an earlier part of my working life for me too at the same zoo. It’s a highly readable book (and I know a lot had to be left out too in this volume) but doesn’t avoid any of the difficulties we went through redeveloping the zoo. Mike crops up in Ben Mee’s ‘zoo rescue’ book too. Money was often very tight and Mike’s showmanship, gift of the gab, sense of humour and imagination were often needed. Often you can see how these qualities were drawn from his early life and experiences As a result, the book has its fair share of funny stories and character animals too, many of whom I remember (sometimes painfully, I got bitten by a fair few!) just as Mike describes them.”
“Researching the challenges facing wartime zoos as I am at the moment, I’ve read lots of zoo memoirs especially by directors. I know that it must be difficult fitting all one’s own viewpoint of complex, funny and difficult situations into one book and how difficult it is to describe to fit all the unusual characters encountered (zoo animal and human) in one volume, so I look forward to book two!”
Surfing Sue, another former member of staff, wrote on Amazon review:
“As a fellow traveller on some of Mike’s strange journey I knew much of the story but by no means all. He has led a fascinating life full of interesting characters, both human and animal. There’s Randy the potato loving raccoon, Peru the streetwise penguin and Exotic Clive the… you’ll have to read the book to find out what or who Clive is. Mike has an entertaining writing style that evokes the feeling of a coffee time chat rather than a faceless narration. His passion for education and dedication to the creatures in his care are an inspiration, as are the accolades he achieved whilst at the helm of the zoo.”
The book is a small tribute to a lot of hard work by a lot of people and to the great support by its many visitors over the years.
Not every event from 1993 to 2003 could have made it into this short book. Not every member of zoo staff could be mentioned and many were the stories that staff regretted never made it into the book.
After all, it is Mike’s life story and can only be one person’s view of running the zoo – many of the other stories are tucked away in our Archive in the pages of Paw Prints our zoo newsletter. Material for future blog posts!
Several of our previous blog posts feature material from “The Mike Thomas Years” (1993-2003) at Newquay Zoo.
Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo history blog, October 2017.
There must be few sets of these Newquay Zoo Pocket Pictures from 2001 remaining intact.
Produced by our enterprising zoo photographer and Marketing Manager in 2001, Michelle Turton, these were sold in the zoo shop.
The fact that my complete series one set includes a free ‘Special’ Ronnie and Lizzie the Lions card marked in red ‘this card only available with the full set’ suggests that Michelle’s attractive mini-photograph cards might have been on sale individually too in our zoo shop.
The cards as you can see were highly educational as well as highly collectable with a few animal facts on the back.
A wide range of species were featured in Set One of 18 cards (plus Special).
I photographed these cards in low light to prevent glare from the shiny cards and their protective plastic sleeves. This makes them a little fuzzy, whilst respecting the copyright of Michelle Turton’s original pictures.
The cards show the changing species at Newquay Zoo since 2001.
It is interesting to look at the cards close up. Snowy Owls or Hedwigs were highly popular in 2001, several books into the Harry Potter series (which began around 1997).
Problems with pet reptile keeping or unwanted pet reptiles at this time (c. 2001) are reflected in the message on the back of the Iguana. Both these common reptile pets grow quite large, become strong and even grumpy and so were then frequently offered to Newquay Zoo by their despairing or even desperate owners.
Our Tropical House used to be full of Common Green Iguanas. Only one of those, no doubt called Iggy, was friendly and chilled out enough to use for animal encounters, if you wore a protective leather jacket to protect your skin from claws. Responsible reptile pet ownership or reasons for not having one was a frequent theme of our reptile based talks, events and animal encounters between 1996 and 2001.
In 1996 we started preparing our Cotton Top Tamarin small monkeys for release from the Tropical House out to free range in the trees along the Maze Road and Tarzan Trail. They remained free-roaming like this for several years, presumably at least until about 2001, until several years of births later, they were becoming increasingly tame in the trees and venturing down to inspect visitors on the ground. Unfortunately some naughty visitors kept trying to photograph them up close with a bit of food bribery. Later I think they might have moved onto one of our tamarin islands.
The Puma card also mentions ‘The Beast’ stories that were prevalent at the time circa 2001. Two pumas Tina and Shane arrived from Haigh mini zoo which closed somewhere around 1993-96, to live in the old Lion House whilst we fundraised to build the ‘Puma House’, where our lovely Carpathian Lynx now live. The last of these now elderly Pumas died in the mid 2000s.
Many were the tales or sightings of exotic big and small cat species roaming the Cornish and British countryside. Almost forty years on from the Dangerous Wild Animals act of 1976/77, which allegedly saw many exotic big cat pets released into the wilds of Britain, people telling me of these sightings after a big cat talk here at Newquay Zoo is quite unusual and rare occurrence now.
This Tyger poem by William Blake was one of several animal poems put up in 2003 just before or whilst the Zoo Federation (now BIAZA) held its AGM here at Newquay Zoo in 2003 (the same year the Fossas arrived).
Fourteen years later this poem and its Rousseau painting of a Tyger has survived, the other animal poems from Walker Books’ anthology Birds Beasts and Fisheshave all faded and gone, whilst our last Fossa Harry left for the UAE this year …
This summer Tippy’s our top small cafe was renamed the Lazy Lion(s) Grill (c. June 2017) .
Tippy’s is named after the white tipped ears of our first male Tapir who arrived c. 1995/6 and lived next to Tippy’s where our Tapirs still live and breed.
I have tracked down a picture of Tippy the Tapir to post here from our 1996 Guidebook
Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, June 2017.
The new twelve-sided £1 coins arrived in our tills over Easter at Newquay Zoo, to join the new plastic £5 notes, with their old equivalents soon to go out of circulation. (Historical Note: For readers of the blog in future, this was when people still paid in 2017 with real cash, despite bank cards and digitickets).
It’s all change with the Newquay Zoo’s design logos as well.
Newquay Zoo’s logo is undergoing a rebrand or a refresh, replacing the running zebra logo that was adopted 13 years ago (c. 2004). That 2004 rebrand reflected Newquay Zoo becoming part of a conservation and education charity, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, along with our sister zoos at Living Coasts and Paignton Zoo.
One of the latest documents in our Newquay Zoo archive is this April 2017 pdf document / print out from our Creative Department (incorporating our former Graphics Department), showing the newest logos that have been steadily rolled out throughout 2017 so far.
Once again these “funky” new logos reflect the close family of three zoos with similar informal and fun fonts but different colours for each zoo.
Interesting to see the Monkey logo return for the 2017 onwards Newquay Zoo Logo, and that the Get Closer strapline / #getcloser hashtag survives.
A small monkey adorns both the Paignton and Newquay Zoo 2017 logos. This monkey proves to have been a recurring logo throughout many years of Newquay Zoo’s design history, almost like the lions who have cropped up on lots of our leaflets since 1969.
A monkey featured on our logo from at least the mid 1980s onwards. Previous to that, the Restormel Borough Council or Newquay Town Crest was used on zoo letter heads.
The 2000 zoo snake logo
This snake logo was used around the Millennium and featured on the Millenium 2000 / ZOO0 New Year, New millenium cake and banner, 1st January 2000. It is based on an idea from a great zoo design book (possibly from an American zoo van graphic?) but was only around for a couple of years, alongside the Newquay Zoo ‘flag’ logo.
The Newquay Zoo Logo That Never Happened
There are some logos that never quite made it into circulation.
The 2004 Diana Monkey proposed logo was quite popular at the design stage with many staff. Unfortunately, like the Newquay Zoo ‘Cornish flag ‘colours logo (c.1996 – 2003/4) that was being replaced, it had a landscape orientation. It had a lovely seaside vintage feel, GWR brown and cream vintage train colours and again featured a popular Newquay Zoo animal at the time – Diana Monkeys.
The Zebra logo was finally chosen partly because it was portrait, the right way up, matching the other WWCT zoo logos and keeping the Cornish Black White and Gold (orange) colours. However being the “back end of a zebra” at the “back end of the country” (I paraphrase very politely) got us a a bit of jocular comment from staff at other zoos!
We could and did argue back that, despite being one herd animal amongst many almost identical stripy animals, the most individual part of a zebra, its unique barcode is on its back end, flanks and legs. One suggestion is that it helps a young zebra recognise its mother amongst a lot of other stripy animals using their disruptive dazzle camouflage. This makes this particular zebra on our logo our unique Newquay ID stripes, our barcode, what makes us stand out amongst a host of other good zoos and visitor attractions. Here the stripy bottom / zebra / zoo metaphor begins to creak …
The Zebra logo also looked forward to an important redevelopment project at Newquay Zoo. Within a few years (2009 – our 40th year) the African Plains Savanna project would see a slightly delayed move for our zebras and other African hoofstock onto the new Savanna field.
Slight delays are inevitable in zoos. We even first opened Newquay Zoo two days later than planned, finally opening on the 26th May 1969 allowing the newly arriving anaimals to settle in.
The unused Diana Monkey logo reappeared unofficially for our irreverent staff awards after our Staff Christmas Dinner for a number of years. Some of these certificates are still proudly on office walls!
Who knows in ten to fifteen years time what our next Newquay Zoo logo and branding will be?
Our monthly Newquay Zoo history snippet for February 2017 focusses on the late 1980s and a rather unusual renaming of Newquay Zoo.
When I first started work at ‘Newquay Zoo’ in the mid 1990s, under the new private ownership of Mike Thomas, it still bore its Council Zoo renaming of Newquay Animal World. So did our letter heads, leaflets, vehicles and uniforms.
This strange name, presumably chosen to match the Water World swimming pool name, led to some odd telephone conversations in the zoo office.
People would phone up and ask to buy a guinea pig. We would then have to explain we were a zoo, not a pet shop, despite our name.
Mike thankfully changed the name back to Newquay Zoo about 1996/97, despite the extensive criticism of ‘zoos’ and the word Zoo flourishing at the time.
The posters and leaflets show the joint marketing of 2 major ‘world’ attractions‘Animal World’ and ‘Water World’ along with the other surviving elements of the original 1960s and 1970s Trenance Leisure Gardens.
This was all part of renewed attempt to market the Trenance Gardens area as a ‘World’ of Leisure, 26 acres of Sports and Leisure.
Inside the Animal World leaflet (c. 1993) are visible some staff that I remember when I started at Newquay Zoo – top left, keeper Claire Roper with our then zoo vet Mike King, Claire is also seen with some of the encounter animals with visitors, keeper David Eyre with python (and elsewhere Kinkajou).
The posters below are from the joint Newquay’s World of Leisure that was (and still sort of is) Trenance Leisure Parks late 1980s / early 1990s.
Interestingly the Zoo (at only 8 acres) is branded as a “ZOOlogical theme park”, no doubt to account for the entertainment features such as the recently planted Maze, Activity play park and Tarzan trail all c. 1983.
Interesting in itself to see how styles of zoo posters and general attraction advertising have or haven’t changed over the years, something we look at with students on business and marketing or leisure and tourism type school and college talks.
The 26 acres of the ‘World of Leisure’ that was ‘Trenance Leisure Gardens’ have changed somewhat after a business dip mid-1990s.
Newquay Zoo is now run as part of a conservation charity, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trusthttp://www.wwct.org.uk/ with Living Coasts and our big sister zoo in Devon, Paignton Zoo. Newquay Zoo expanded onto the nearby ‘Little Wembley’ sports field, growing a few acres to its current 12 – 13 acres to create the Savannah area which opened in 2009.
We now open all year round, from about 1993/4 as opposed to the original Council Zoo being open Easter to October.
The Toboggan Run has given way to the Wooden Waves skate park.
The miniature train and the pitch and putt / crazy golf still thrive, the Tennis Courts are now part of the Heron Tennis Centre whilst Water World’s swimming pool and gym is still very busy, its visitors watched as ever by our African Lions. http://www.tempusleisure.org.uk/waterworld-newquay/
The Lakeside Café, Boating Lake and Rose Gardens (home to the original Charles Trevisick’s Newquay Children’s Zoo – see below) are still flourishing.
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:
By 1983 Newquay Zoo had expanded over the stream edge with the Maze, tarzan Trail and Waterfall and Water garden areas.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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 http://www.wwct.org.uk/ 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.
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 .