This month’s December blog post, we reprint the black and white Newquay Zoo Newsletter Pawprints – our 8th edition or Vol 2, No 3 – for the period July /August 1998, with added colour photos that we couldn’t afford to print at the time!
Tippy’s Café opening is mentioned – and here it is as it was. c. 1998, still recognisably an old mongoose enclosure from the mid 1990s (and walled small animal space for otters in 1969?)
The Rescued Pumas need a House fundraising story reaches a happy conclusion.
Scheduled blog post by Mark Norris, using our Newquay Zoo Archive collection, as our monthly blogpost, counting down towards our 50th Anniversary on 26 May 1969.
being the opening words by Mike Thomas of the first Paw Prints newsletter from Newquay Zoo, August 1995.
Paw Prints newsletter ran for almost ten years before merging with Paignton Zoo News c. 2004 and all this is now replaced by websites, social media and blogs, things unimaginable then. By 1996 we had a zoo website of sorts.
The Noah’s Ark theme of this first Editorial by Mike Thomas in the first edition of Paw Prints (August 1995) was one that he was to return to over the next ten years and was celebrated in our Ark ticket entrance, new c. 1994/5, rebuilt since but it still doggedly retains the Ark name today.
Zoos were heavily criticised in the late 1980s and early 1990s by some people on animal welfare grounds. Some zoos closed, others like Newquay Zoo struggled to survive financially and improve its enclosures.
The first Paw Prints Newsletter came at a point of much rebuilding on a very tight budget. Hence Mike Thomas and Jon Blount spend much time in their first editorial and articles setting out a vision of what small zoos like Newquay could become, with the support of visitors, working with many other good modern zoos around the world.
Looking at the logo used on the front page, we were proudly Newquay Animal World – subtitled Wildlife Rescue and Conservation. These two themes make up much of this first edition in August 1995. The first edition was probably written by a combination of Jane Angwin, Jon Blount and Mike Thomas. The ‘Animal World’ name would change by the time I first edited Paw Prints issue 3 for ‘Newquay Zoo’ in Summer 1996.
These early Paw Prints editions are quite simply made, cobbled together using a very basic PC word processor in the Zoo Curator’s office (the only computer in the zoo in 1995/6), a black and white photocopier, Letraset lettering transfers, black and white photographs, line drawings, ink pens, scissors, glue and sweat.
They were usually photocopied by the friendly folks at Quintdown Press in Newquay for sale in the zoo shop or sending to members, adopters and local schools, all to promote the zoo. We were encouraged as staff to take them home and leave a few around in waiting rooms whenever we had a doctor or dentist appointment.
As there is no colour in these Paw Prints , I have added some relevant colour photos from our Archive or of the scenes today. Here is the 2018 scene of the 1995 enclosures and animals shown on page 2:
Advertising posters may have been colour in 1994/5 but it was far too expensive an option for the Paw Prints Newquay Zoo newsletter. This remained mostly black and white until August 2003 when we switched to a colour front cover. Shortly after c. 2004 we merged the Paignton and Newquay Zoo and Living Coasts newsletters to provide a full colour A4 newsletter, covering news from each zoo.
Hedgehog Rescue and our Wildlife Hospital 1994 – 2004
These pages all bring back many rich and smelly memories for me as I spent many happy hours helping out in our Newquay Zoo Wildlife Hospital in the quieter times of the year in between education sessions, from about 1996 onwards. Working with native wild animals in Britain as well as ‘at risk’ species overseas were both important to the Newquay Zoo of 1995.
Hopefully the prickly descendants of rescued hedgehogs Spike, Oily, Bumble and Bill are still enjoying a wild life in Cornwall. Some of the more injured rescued hedgehogs were released into the zoo grounds and hedgehogs were certainly still around when I was working late evening several years ago.
Apologies for the copy or scan quality of the next three pages. We don’t have the original pages of the next three page article on “The Modern Zoo “ by Zoo Curator Jon Blount, as they were probably kept and heavily photocopied to help answer student and visitor enquiries about the role of a “Modern Zoo”.
“Best job I ever had“, he recently mentioned when I contacted Jon about our 50th anniversary in May 2019.
Jon Blount, then recently graduated, was our Newquay Zoo Curator from 1994 to 1997 before returning to college to do research. Today (2018) Jon is a Professor of Animal EcoPhysiology and Director of Postgraduate Research at the University of Exeter (based not very far away at the Penryn / Tremough Campus). http://biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/staff/index.php?web_id=jon_blount
I wonder what Jon would makes of his 1995 article today, comparing his Zoo Curator job as it would have been in Victorian times or the early 1900s to that he enjoyed ‘today’ in the 1990s ? He’s a busy man but hopefully he’ll have time at some point to reread it and comment, and we shall include this here if possible.
What do we learn about developments in the 1995 era zoo from this article?
New 1994/5 arrivals that Jon mentioned include the Asian Short Clawed Otters, a species we still hold and breed today in 2018. Kafue Flats Lechwe antelope and Damara Zebra “Etosha”are no longer with us. They lived on the original ‘new’ mixed species African Plains (where the rare Philippine Deer now live), but since 2009 we have an expanded African Savanna section with Chapman’s Zebra, Black Wildebeest and Nyala antelope. The last elderly female Lechwe moved in with this mixed herd in 2009. The Meerkats now live at top end of the zoo.
Jon mentions the arrival of some escapologist Banded Mongoose (housed where Tippys Café now stands), two Sooty Mangabeys (oddly behaved ex-pets “Misha” and “Ramrod”), free range Cotton-topped Tamarins (pictured) released from the Tropical House in 1996 into the trees near the Maze. We still have Crowned Cranes on our main lake edges.
Conservation, Education, Research and Recreation – still pretty much the role of a good ‘Modern Zoo’ in 2018.
By 1994 5 we had joined and been mentored into membership of the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland with its zebra head logo, now known as BIAZA or the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariumshttps://biaza.org.uk/
We also joined EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, around the same time, widening the range of breeding programmes, studbooks and loans we could be involved in https://www.eaza.net/
We remain highly active members of both BIAZA and EAZA and so are involved in today’s version of co-operative breeding programmes for increasingly rare animals, zoo research and working on overseas conservation projects in country.
Jon Blount also mentions the creation of the Sulawesi Crested Macaque monkey group with animals on “breeding loan” from London, Marwell and Jersey Zoo. This species are still doing well here as part of that cooperative breeding programme but are now Critically Endangered on their home island of Sulawesi. One of the early youngsters born to our first Alpha Male Hemlock, a 1998 baby known as Chekeeto still heads our group in 2018.
A new Puma enclosure designcompetition is mentioned in 1995 for two rescued Pumas from a zoo which closed at Haigh in Wigan. This Puma enclosure in 2018 now houses Carpathian Lynx and their recent twin kittens.
Research 1995 and 2018
Research projects mentioned at the time include hand rearing Penguins, along with studying enclosure design and dietary effects on the behaviour of nocturnal Kinkajou and Sooty Mangabey monkeys. Botth these last two species we no longer work with. However similar nutrition, behaviour and enrichment research by students still continues today http://www.wwct.org.uk/research supervised by a full-time Research Officer, Dr. Kathy Baker. http://www.wwct.org.uk/about/people/the-team/kathy-baker
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.
If you have ever wondered why our Newquay Zoo Ticket Office and Entrance are called the Ark, here is why!
Around 1993/4 the original zoo entrance was remodelled by Mike Thomas into the shape of an Ark, complete with dove cot above (not fun to clean out).
The symbolism of the zoo as an Ark for endangered species was obviously the idea, based on Gerald Durrell’s book The Stationary Ark (1970s, still in print, still a good read).
These gate murals of animals going into the Ark, painted to celebrate the rebuilt ARK entrance at Newquay Zoo, caused occasional confusion amongst visitors.
“Where were the giraffes, the rhinos, the elephants shown on the gates?” asked slightly annoyed or puzzled visitors.
It would be another ten years, a change of name and another change of ownership before we sort of did have giraffe, rhino and elephants – by joining up with Paignton Zoo as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT). If I now get asked where our elephants or giraffes are, I usually now point helpfully in the direction of Devon.
David Young, who is seen in our press cutting (c. 1993/4) opening the new Zoo entrance, was the host of the TSW show on South west television called Oliver’s Travels, after his dog Oliver (which makes him one of the few non-assistance dogs to have been allowed on site).
The heritage rust of our gates have recently been renewed with new gates for the first time in at least 25 years, maybe even 48 years …
The old pigeon or dove cot (note the Biblical Ark story symbolism) is now quiet, claened out and boxed in.
So that is the story of the curious ongoing name of the Ark?
Some staff might remember an attempt to rename this area in a staff suggestion / competition when the murals, pigeons and doves had gone and the Ark shape had been partly removed.
The winning suggestion was “The Lodge”, but many years later this has never really caught on. The Ark it still is then …
Cheski (keeper Mark Tomaszewski) mentioned on our phone list above is another big chunk of Newquay Zoo history, whom we will feature in our November or December Newquay Zoo history blog post.
Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, September / October 2017.
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 .