Many people have said to me “I don’t like Zoos …”
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 Aquariums https://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 design competition 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
The Black Lemur Forest Project education and conservation project in Madagascar mentioned in our 1995 newsletter 1995 was a forerunner of the many overseas conservation and education projects that we are still involved in as the three zoos of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust. http://www.wwct.org.uk/conservation-research
Ring-tailed lemurs have now occupied and bred on the ‘Black Lemur island’ for over fifteen years, as the last of our Black Lemur group moved off on breeding loan elsewhere.
That was our first edition of Paw Prints, Newquay Zoo, August 1995 revisited and updated looking back from 2018. I hope you enjoyed reading it again or afresh.
Look out for the second edition Christmas / December 1995 to be featured soon.
Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive as part of our NZ50 50th Anniversary preparations, https://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/50thanniversary