The Newquay Zoo Monkey Walk enclosures – Then and Now.
As part of our ongoing public appeal for photos of the changing and developing Newquay Zoo ahead of our 50th Anniversary in May 2019, it was great to receive a little packet of photos from Peter Trebilcock. Peter was a Newquay Zoo Keeper from the late 1970s and later, by the time I knew him, he was Site and Operations Manager up to about the year 2000.
Somewhere I have a photograph of Peter Trebilcock in keeper action to post here.
They were passed to Peter by a mysterious someone called ‘Richard’, dropped in to be scanned and were returned to Peter the same day! Thanks both!
Obviously taken in Winter as building staff are well wrapped up and there are no leaves on the trees.
The pages of the Children’s Guide to Newquay Zoo 1989 show which three families of large Monkeys – Diana, Green and Capuchin monkeys – were around in the early days of this rebuilt Monkey Walk enclosure. The black star shows which monkeys were considered rare in the mid 1980s.
In the 1990s this Monkey Walk housed a trio of rare African monkey families – Diana, Monkeys, Colobus Monkeys and Sooty Mangabeys.
Today 2018 these enclosures are occupied by two types of rare Capuchin Monkey (white Fronted and Yellow Breasted) and a group of Common Squirrel Monkeys.
I will add older 1969 pictures of the original Monkey Walk as they emerge from our Archive.
There you go, a little snippet of Newquay Zoo history – hopefully more of these small bundles of pictures should turn up from visitor and staff albums over the countdown to the Newquay Zoo 50th anniversary on May 26 2019.
Talking Heads Up
On Saturday July 7th and Wednesday July 11th 2018 we will be video recording the first of our talking heads interviews / short chats with past and present staff and visitors as we count down toward NZ50 in May 2019. Still a few spaces available.
If you would like to share your memories in this or any other way, contact Mark Norris or Rebecca Blake at Newquay Zoo. We would love to hear from you.
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.
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.