A Bug Free Millennium with Zoo 2000 cake

New Years Day 2000 staff shot
A small gathering of some of the staff working New Year’s Day 2000 at Newquay Zoo.

Our latest Newquay Zoo Archive offering:

Full of hope for the New Millennium? pictured here is a small zoo staff gathering on the café patio on New Year’s day 2000, ahead of serving cake and bubbly to our visitors at Newquay Zoo.

Left to right in the picture, Newquay Zoo January 1st 2000: Zoo Owner / Director Mike Thomas (wearing tie), Happy Keepers Jinny Pearce, Vicky Buscombe, Roger Williams, Chris Farhall, young zoo volunteers and ex-Penguin Club members Ben Pike  and Nick Callender. (Nick later went into keepering).

Holding the banner: left  Craig Rodham  and (right) keeper Mark “Cheski” Tomaszewski.

Our longest serving keepers Mark Cheski and Roger Williams are still working here as keepers 19 years later, as we approach our 50th Anniversary on 26 May 1969 / 2019.

We were all relieved that morning that the  dreaded Y2K Millennium Bug had not wiped the few old computers that we had, crashed our website and caused widespread power shortages, plane crashes, general chaos, the appearance of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse etc.

I remember that much the same ‘tourism apocalypse’ was predicted locally for the 11th August 1999 Total Solar Eclipse a few months before (see previous blog posts). So we thought we were disaster planning  veterans already, but none of us expected the Fuel Strike and Foot and Mouth Epidemic of 2001.

2000 cake Di Eade Maxine
Full of hope for the New Millennium? Past staff members Dianne Eade cutting our Zoo 2000 cake with help from Maxine in the Café, New Year’s Day January 1st  2000.

This  Zoo snake logo that was morphed in to the ‘2000’ on our Millennium banner was based on a US zoo design. It was briefly used around the Millennium early 2000s until no later than 2003, alongside the Newquay Zoo ‘pawprint one from 1996-2003.

NZ zoo business card logos
A selection of our logos from 1996 to the 2000 snake and  the long running 2003 – 2017 “zebra’s backside” logo. Old emails, old phone numbers  …

The Zoo snake logo wasn’t around for more than a year or two c. 2000 but did make it onto a few uniforms, such as this denim uniform shirt in our archive.


I was working at the Zoo that New Year’s Day and am not entirely sure why I wasn’t in the Millennium staff photograph with the others. I was probably off doing a feeding talk.

I also had a pounding headache from one glass of champagne the night before (Champagne, I discovered, doesn’t agree with me!) so I was avoiding the bubbly served to staff and zoo visitors. Go for the cake instead!

 B.P.S. – Blog Post Script

Somewhere in my family bangles, bracelets and jewellery box, we have a quirky little metal Millennium Bug brooch, made locally, that I bought from the Zoo Shop. I will have to dig this out for the blog.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, on 9 May 2019, as part of the photos released from our Archives as we count down the last few weeks to our Newquay Zoo 50th Birthday Anniversary on Sunday 26 May 2019.



Paw Prints November 1999 Eclipse edition

PP 11 P1 NOV 1999
National recognition at last for our tourism business work 1999.

Republished – on this blog –  for the first time since 1999, our November 1999 Paw Prints newsletter from Newquay Zoo – now with added colour, as  we couldn’t afford the colour printing at the time. 

1999 HSBC Small Business
A proud Mike Thomas (centre) HSBC Small Business of the Year Award 13 October 1999
PP 11 P2 NOV 1999
Exciting news about the college partnership from Mike Thomas, late 1999. Within a year the first FE and HE students would arrive. 
2003 college award MN SM MK Colour
Our 2003 BIAZA zoo award for this college project – Director Mike Thomas had recently retired by the time we were awarded this in late 2003. 

Cornwall College Newquay is still going strong 20 years later, having taught thousands of conservation and zoology students since it opened in September 2000.  https://www.cornwall.ac.uk/campus/newquay

PP 11 P3 NOV 1999
News of the Sensory Sculpture being carved 

As well as College plans, business awards, there was also news of one of our first sensory interactive statues of three lemurs or monkeys outside the Tropical House carved by Cornish sculptor Reece Ingram. www.reeceingram.co.uk  Sadly this in no longer in one piece.

reece ingram sensory sculpture 1999
Sculptor Reece Ingram Newquay Zoo 1999
sensory sculpture jenny agutter
1999 / 2000 Jenny Agutter’s visit. 

I went over to Belgium and Holland to visit EAZA zoos in 1999, after having previously spoken about our MFL Languages project at the European Zoo Education Conference. 

PP 11 P6 NOV 1999
First mention of the Spraying Tapir …
spraying tapir sign 2000
Newquay Zoo’s spraying tapir sign c. 2000 – 2005/6 
braille statues amersfoort zoo 1999
Amersfoort Zoo otter and prairie dog sensory sculptures and braille signage 1999
PP 11 P7 NOV 1999
I still use the photo archive of signs and enclosures from this 1999 tour … 
talking Stones hogue veluwe holland
Talking stones – touch them and they talk, explaining how they got to Hogue Veluwe national Park in Holland through the ice age movement of stones and glaciers. Clever! 1999. 

One of the other big  tourism (non)events of Summer 1999 was the Solar Eclipse on 11 August 1999. We kept notes on how our animals behaved and also put up notices to safely shape how our human animals behaved in the darkness.

Some of our Eclipse documents to be explored in an Eclipse 1999-2019 blog entry in August 2019 

PP 11 P4 NOV 1999

Look out for our 20th eclipse Anniversary Blogpost which will be posted on or around 11 August 2019, revealing some of the oddities of our Eclipse archive. 

PP 11 P5 NOV 1999.jpg
Eclipse News 1999 – next total eclipse update Newquay Zoo 2090? 
Some of our handwritten eclipse animal behaviour notes – these collated by Mike Thomas 11 August 2019. 

PP 11 P9 NOV 1999

PP 11 P8 NOV 1999.jpg
More new arrivals – Squirrel Monkeys ready for the New Lake island house …

Tyson the appropriately named clever bruiser group leader of our Squirrel Monkeys  had form, a long naughty behaviour list on his animal records from other zoos before he arrived here.

The Squirrel Monkey island in preparation can be seen here:  https://newquayzoohistory.wordpress.com/2019/05/02/april-fools-day-1999-photo-update/

PP 11 P10 NOV 1999.jpg
New arrivals news Late 1999 – and news of our Bugs Tunnel paintings, in place of the closed rabbit warren (Now Toad Hall and the Red Panda area, 2019.) 
old bugs tunnel painting NZ 99
Bugs Tunnel painting 1999 which I did with genuine ‘bushman’ help from Lindi, one of our seasonal South African staff, who grew up with Bushmen tribes people on her family game reserve.  
PP 11 P11 NOV 1999.jpg
New arrivals – Sadsack the penguin chick, Bali Starlings  and bird keeper James Gorman, who was  related to the well known Conservative MP Teresa Gorman. 

PP 11 P12 NOV 1999.jpg

Halloween 1999 Mark Norris
Mark Norris storytelling on The Tarzan Trail Halloween, Newquay Zoo 31st October 1999 (Nick Callender left) 

Photos released from our Archives as we count down the last few weeks to our Newquay Zoo 50th Birthday Anniversary on Sunday 26 May 2019.

Look out for our Eclipse 20 years on blog post in August 2019.

The Spraying Tapir at Newquay Zoo c. 2000

spraying tapir sign 2000
The much missed (but only by some) interactive  highly educational sign about Tapirs at Newquay Zoo c. 2000 to 2005/6.  

Remember This? Pictured is our  much missed (but only by some)  interactive highly educational sign about Tapirs at Newquay Zoo c. 2000 – 2005/6.

It is based on one at Rotterdam Zoo that I saw on a European Zoo Educators  Tour in 1999. I drew the Brazilian Tapir design which was realised in metal. A mechanism rigged up whereby a fresh water spray was triggered by a security light sensor.

Designed locally,  after about 5 to 6 years the Heath-Robinson mechanism on our version sadly gave out. It was not repaired or replaced.

Some lament its passing, others cursed the “brainless idiot who invented this and drenched their trousers” – a real but toned down quote from a visitor feedback form at the time. (At this point I denied all knowledge of its creator).

Proof that you can’t please everybody!

I wish we had done a lion version as well, but to be fair, our real  lions do this interactive job perfectly well themselves on occasion.

Photos released from our Archives as we count down the last few weeks to our Newquay Zoo 50th Birthday Anniversary on Sunday 26 May 2019.


April Fools Day 1999 Photo Update

April Fools day 1999 2000
Bill Eade our ferryman for the Day – and Mark Norris –  April Fools Day 1999. Trumpeter Swan nest platform in the background.

** Update / Additional Photos Added **

Before our Squirrel Monkeys moved  onto the Capybara sunning island in April 1999, we had an unusual ceremony there on our main lake on the first of April.   You can read the whole story here:


Some new photos have turned up whilst scanning slowly the many photos in our Archive.

Ferry to Toilets
Ferry To Toilets caption – April Fools Day 1999
April Fools Jo Topham Mark Norris
The grand opening of our island toilets?  Mark Norris announces and Jo Topham stocks the essentials in our  new Island toilets, April Fools Day 1999. Capybara and Crane sheds in the background.

2019 update 

Twenty years on from this April Fools Day stunt, Jo and Mark are still happily working at Newquay Zoo and remember the event well; both  have been interviewed for our 50th Anniversary videos. Bill Eade ‘the ferryman’ has now retired.

Twenty years on, the far empty playing field is now the Savanna, home since 2009 to our Wildebeest, Zebra and Nyala antelope herds.

All change! Rare Black and White Ruff Lemurs from Madagascar now live on the island with an updated house. The Capybaras have moved in with the Tapirs across the zoo, both enjoying the same plunge pool, whilst the Squirrel monkeys now live on the Monkey Walk, in sight of their old island home.

Photos released from our Archives as we count down the last few weeks to our Newquay Zoo 50th Birthday Anniversary on Sunday 26 May 2019.






Peafowl, Camels, Flowery Shirts and the Price of Beer

peacock PC 1987 1970s

I picked up this vintage Newquay Zoo peacock postcard online recently – but not so much for the picture.  This is an image that we already have already in the Newquay Zoo Archive as it appeared in our 1970s / 1980s guidebook and I have a second unposted copy of the Peacock postcard somewhere.

What I liked  was the holiday message on the back, postmarked 22 June 1987. Newquay Zoo was then still in its mid 1980s rebuild under Restormel Borough Council ownership.

peacock postcard

Sadly the sender Michael didn’t say more about his trip to the zoo on the Monday of his June 1987 holiday. I wish he’d written more about the Zoo. We do learn the weather was not good that week and that the journey (from Cumbria?) had been long.

Most importantly Michael needed to tell Mr. Willis that in Newquay  beer is 90p a pint, 1987 prices, a bit different to the £3 to £4 plus a pint  you’d pay today (30 plus years later).

Was he writing back to his school teachers, I wonder, advertising Newquay’s cheap beer as well as its zoo?

Two years later Michael would have been able to buy the innovative Newquay Zoo ‘colour in’ Children’s Guide from 1989.

NZ89 Childrens Guidebook Free range wildfowl birds p8
Colour Me Beautiful – Newquay Zoo Children’s 1989 Guidebook peacock page. 

Peacocks are still amazing our visitors  with their show-stopping tail, song and  dance displays at the zoo and have been doing so  since the first months of the zoo in 1969, changing the Newquay soundscape for ever. A little sonic slice of Indian forest.

We know a little about the early Newquay Zoo Peacocks from 1969 to 1975, including the first 3 pairs costing 36 pounds (no shillings, no pence, old L-S-D money), a few hatchings and the odd bizarre death. 6 old pounds each in 1969! In these days of 2019, zoo animal transfers for conservation breeding programmes do not involve purchase money, other than paying transport costs.

peafowl record cards 1969
Peafowl record card Newquay Zoo Archive 1969-1976

There were unfortunately three peafowl Killed in  Bear Pit in 1972/3 (two males, one female) – not clear if these were Chicks? Adults?

In 5th January 1975,  sadly 1 Peahen found drowned in Sealion Pool – where our penguins now live.

Looking into the background of photos and postcards is often interesting. Heading down the steps from what was the Bear Pit  are a trio of zoo visitors on an early 1970s  sunny day.

peacock PC 1987 1970s people crop

Spot those flowery men’s 1970s shirts and long hair  in the background. A slice of 1970s fashion on our happy zoo visitors.

Camel 1970s guidebook 600dpi version 2

Haven’t we seen one of those visitors before? Bizarrely the dapper blue chap  in the blue cap appears several times in the 1970s to 1980s Newquay Zoo guidebook. He obviously had the knack of almost being in the photograph but not quite on the day the publicity photographs were taken.

Once were Camels … using 1970s guidebook photos, here is the Bactrian camel sign from  our new Then and Now 50th anniversary signs 2019  (next to our vintage Portakabin Education buildings) Newquay Zoo April 2019.

Ten of these great vintage Newquay Zoo photos from 1969 to the mid 1980s (the Council run zoo days)  now form a part of our Then and Now Trail, part of our NZ50 50th Anniversary events.

The ‘colour in yourself’  front cover of our New 50th Anniversary 2019 Then and Now Trail, ideal for families, children … and zoo history nerds.

These Then and Now signs should stay up for the rest of our 50th birthday year2019  and hopefully for several years  afterwards.

Camel 1970s guidebook
Once were camels … 1970s 
Same scene looking out  from the old camel paddock today 2019. The 1970s Rhea or Emu enclosure is now a much enjoyed playground, first built in  the  1980s – photo April 2019. The camel paddock (behind me) is now the Lynx enclosure and Education buildings. 

2019 Here Still Be Peacocks …

The peacock postcard / image didn’t make it into the highly select NZ50 anniversary Then and Now trail images but I tracked down where it was taken – these unnamed steps down from or up to Macaques –  and peacocks are still displaying  in that area.

Then and Now 2019  – the steps down from the Bear Pit / Macaque Enclosure where this peacock photo / postcard was taken in the early 1970s.  

This peacock photo would have been taken with the old 1969 walkthrough aviary behind me (now dismantled c. 2005, our  Secret Garden area). You can just glimpse it’s netting or mesh possibly lower left.

Within a few feet of where the postcard  photo was taken in the 1970s, peacocks still dance, sing and display.

Displaying still in the same area 2019 … intriguingly close to where the bears once lived. Whoops! 
Peafowl 2019 next to or almost in the old Bear Pit, now Sulawesi macaque monkeys 2019. 

Killed in Bear Pit? Our peacocks have been playing tag with Bears from 1969-94 and now our Sulawesi macaque monkeys since 1995. Thankfully these days only the odd tail feather is lost …

Displaying – an unusual lek or display  area – using reflections in the Bear pit / Macaque Monkey Enclosure window glass, April 2019.
1970s peacock and 2019 descendent? Then and Now,  Newquay Zoo 2019

So there we are, peacocks, camels, visitor fashion and the price of beer, past and present. 

Blog posted by Mark Norris from the Newquay Zoo Archive as part of our countdown to Newquay Zoo’s 50th Anniversary, which is on Sunday 26 May 1969 / 2019 

Find out more at:









Pelicans at Newquay Zoo – again!

Pelicans. New arrivals at Newquay Zoo – or returning species?

pelicans press release NZ website April 19 clearer
Screen shot of Newquay Zoo website April 2019
April 2019 Pelican signage Newquay Zoo 
Pelicans back on the lake at Newquay Zoo April 2019 

Intriguingly we had had pelicans before – not just on our lakeside but on our 1970s / 1980s zoo Mini van, as a past Newquay Zoo logo. 


Our Zoo Mini van with a well disguised Mr and Mrs Norman Marshall at Newquay Carnivals 1970s / 1980s (Marshall collection / Newquay Zoo Archive)

M suffix registration plates cars were registered 1st Aug 1973 to 31st Jul 1974



On some faded record cards I found the faded original records of our first Pelicans, presumably on the main lake, which arrived in 1973/1974.

pelicans record cards

  • White Pelicans
  • Crested White Pelicans
  • Greater Brown Pelicans
1970s guidebook waterfowl flamingo
White and Brown Pelicans mentioned in our 1970s early 80s guidebook

Our former Head of Birds (now at ZSL London Zoo April 2019) Gary Ward suggested the common names may have changed a little since the 1970s. A little research clarified what these species would be called today.

Greater Brown Pelicans are now known as Brown Pelicans Pelecanus occidentalis  listed as Least Concern due to increasing numbers and wide range: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22733989/132663224

Crested or Crested White Pelicans are probably are our current species Pelecanus onocrotalus. The current IUCN Red Data listing for our Great White Pelicans (Least Concern) is at https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22697590/132595920

Gary Ward  was also surprised that a Greater Brown Pelican was killed by a Predator, in 1974 as they are big strong birds. It would have to be something as big as a fox?

NZ89 Childrens Guidebook Free range wildfowl birds p8 p9


In 1989 we still had  Pelicans – Dalmatian Pelicans, featured in our colour in 1989 Children’s Guidebook.

By the time I began to regularly visit then work at Newquay Zoo arrived c. 1994/5 – 1996, the Pelicans had recently left alongside the last few Flamingos. (Our Flamingos feature in a future Newquayzoohistory blogpost).

So there we are … a welcome return of Pelicans to Newquay Zoo’s lakeside, after 25+ years, in time for our 50th Anniversary NZ50 on Sunday May 26th 2019.


Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive NZ50 18 April 2019


April Fools Day Newquay Zoo 1999

April Fools day 1999 2000
That’s me in the boat with Bill ‘the Bodger’ Eade setting up the signage for the April Fools Day stunt on our leaky Zoo Boat – sorry, new island toilet ferry. Photo from Newquay Zoo Archive / Mike Thomas’ book Strange Things Happened on My Way to The Zoo.  
PP 10a P2 May 1999
From our Paw Prints Newsletter no. 10a May 1999

Zoos are particularly prone to April Fools’ Day jokes. Woe betide the office staff who are on the Office rota to work on April 1st in the Zoo Office, ready for all the puzzled phone calls saying they have been left a message to phone a Mr. C. Lions, a Mr. G. Raffe or more inventive ones like asking for a Sue (Keeper) or a Lee (Muir).

Not all of the innocent people who bother to phone up find this funny … but surely their work colleagues in offices all over the country, who wrote the fake messages, find it hilarious.

London Zoo famously had its LIRPALOOF enclosure and sign (read the name backwards) with back up from David Bellamy for this fabulous That’s Life spoof on video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwDwRsfUj6Y

This April Fools’ Newquay Zoo 1999 story is told at the time in our Paw Prints Newsletter https://newquayzoohistory.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/newquay-zoo-pawprints-newsletter-no-10a-1999/

and appears in Mike Thomas’ 2010 memoir or autobiography Strange Things Happened on My Way to The Zoo (still available in online bookshops) .  

april fools
Reprinted from ‘Strange Things Happened on My Way To The Zoo’ (Mike Thomas,  2010)

We’ve had several more April Fools in the zoo since then. More recent Newquay Zoo April Fools involved replacing a few panels on a little noticed very old directions sign post in the zoo with temporary panels directing people to various dinosaur enclosures.

April 1 2019 passed quietly at Newquay Zoo as we have big events to plan for, not least the renaming of the Trust that runs our three zoos.  Oh, and our 50th Newquay Zoo Anniversary …

Blogposted on 1st April 2019 by Mark Norris on the countdown to our 50th Anniversary on 26 May 2019 – find out more at: