Then and Now: Connie’s photographs of Newquay Zoo late 1990s


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Then: Coatimundis on the Animal Encounter Lawn c. 2000 – 2003 with Newquay Zoo keeper Wendy Winstanley (and left possibly Keeper Emma Nowak?

Connie, one of our longest serving volunteers, recently dropped in a handful of ‘snappy snaps’ as part of our NZ50 Anniversary request for photographs of the changing zoo over the last 50 years.

Her extended family having worked in various staff roles at Newquay Zoo, Connie basically grew up here!

Now 2018: the same Encounter Lawn, early morning before visitors arrive. Animal Encounters are still held here but the coatis are now sadly gone.
Now 2018: The Encounter Lawn now also houses a Bug and  Bee Hotel for 2018 “Nearby Nature”. The Giant Stone Rabbit from the Old 1980s Rabbit Warren (now Red Pandas) still lurks in the bushes.

These are pre-digital camera snaps, old school camera film and prints. Like many of my snappy snaps, they are occasionally a bit blurry, but nonetheless valuable for the glimpses that they give of Newquay Zoo in its 30th-something years (built 1969), when it was privately run by Mike Thomas and team (1993-2003).

That was Then, This is Now!

On a bright sunny morning in July 2018 before visitors arrived, I walked around Newquay Zoo trying to locate and photograph the scenes that Connie had photographed. This was not so easy in some areas, especially with two more decades of jungly exotic plant growth.

Connie’s photos (featured here) start from around  1999 / 2000  and up until the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust took over in August 2003, when Mike Thomas retired.

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Then: When Iguanas roamed the Tropical House at Newquay Zoo … this may be Dino, that rare Green iguana – a friendly one!
Now 2018: No Green Iguanas left in our Tropical House but lots of jungle and tropical plants for our current rainforest animals.
Our 1987 Tropical House is shown in its original simple light green wall background, looking through big windows into the Village Farm area. 
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Roxy Peru the Hoffmann’s Sloth or her mum c 2000-2003 in the Tropical House, before the lovely Indiana Jones style Temple walls and Jungle Ruins rebuild.
Then 2018: the same scene! Sloths still live here, but it’s much much more jungly!

Lake islands have long provided safe homes for many of our primates such as Lemurs and Tamarins.

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Then: Connie’s photo shows Ring-Tailed Lemurs on what was once the Black Lemur Island and its old ‘shed’ house. Rear wire enclosures housed the occasional Tamarin (if out of its group for any reason). 1999-2003 era.
Now 2018: Ring Tailed Lemurs still live on this island. Beyond the back fence is now our much larger African Savanna (2009 onwards).
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Then 1999? 2003? Connie’s photo shows Ring Tailed Lemurs on the old Marmoset / old Bamboo Lemur island.
Now 2018: What was once temporarily Ring Tailed Lemurs is now a Tamarin house and Island. It has got bigger, the bamboo platforms have been replaced by smaller linked islands  and there is  much more planting and cover for foraging.
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Then: Connie’s photograph shows Meat in the scratchpost tree for one of our series of ageing retired ex-Longleat male lions – not dated but late 1990s, early 2000s.  This could be Major? Ronnie? Charlie?
Now 2018: The Lion House is now home to three young African Lions, non-breeding male  Boss and his sisters Amahle and Semira, all from Longleat. Photograph taken during the July 2018 heatwave, the ground is dry and the lack of rain is beginning to show.

Sometimes it was harder to work out where Connie’s  photograph was taken from, such as in the Oriental Garden. The steep stone steps and stonework of the original Japanese Water Garden can be glimpsed in the background of her photograph. These have now gone and the whole area is more accessible.

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Before we opened up whole of  the Oriental garden stream to our Asian Otters, Connie’s photograph shows what  was once part of their land area. 1999-2003?
Then 2018: a little more tricky to find the right angle and exact spot but this is roughly the same view, with the whole of the Oriental Garden stream opened up to the Otters (glimpsed right). The old steep stone steps form part of the newer otter enclosure stream walls.
Then 2018: the view from over the other side of the stream, looking back towards where Connie’s photograph was taken from, Oriental Garden 2018.
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Connie’s picture shows Humboldt Penguins in our current Penguin Pool (the old Sealion Pool) before the big feeding rock was built out into  the middle of the Penguin Pool. 1999-2003
Now 2018: the same scene with the much larger feeding rock out into the Penguin Pool.
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Cranes feeding on the grassland area of the Tapir and Capybara enclosure.
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Two (or two and a half?) slightly blurry Brazilian Tapirs. One may well be the original Tippy who arrived in 1996 and gave his  name to our original small café nearby.
Now 2018: Good forest shade around a rebuilt Tapir pool and Tamarin Island off to the right.
Now 2018: part of the Tapir and Capybara Paddock
Now 2018: Jungly! The same shady scene looking back to the Tapir and Capybara Paddock and Houses.
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Then: This had me stumped!  Connie’s photograph (1999-2003) shows Bennett’s free ranging Wallaby in the area where Red Pandas now live. the carved wooden fence was where Prairie Dogs once dug (now home to Cusimanse mongoose).
Now 2018: The Wallabies have gone. This stone walled section is the viewing area for Cusimase mongoose, digging where Prairie Dogs once dug (out into the Red panda enclosure, but that’s another story). The entrance to Toad Hall (amphibians) is on the right and I am almost standing in the Native Amphibians Pond.

The free-ranging Wallabies and Patagonian Cavy or Mara were very popular with visitors, much less so with our zoo gardeners. Now these roaming herbivores  have moved on, the exotic planting has survived much better and Newquay Zoo is much more jungly. Funny coincidence that.

Now 2018: A few steps further back from my previous photograph, looking for where Connie’s  Wallaby photograph was taken leads to a jungly wall of bamboo! Happy Red Panda(s) though …

Connie’s final photograph shows the Newquay Carnival in 1999.

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Newquay Carnival 1999 – the zoo van K292 NCV was our balloon clad float that year and lots of staff were dressed or facepainted as animals – centre kneeling, Connie the photographer, now one of our long-serving volunteers.
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Identified members of staff 1999 – left in blue, Mary Slaney, Connie Slaney as a tiger (and owner of these  photographs), Jo Topham the Lion, whilst amongst the Keeper and Penguin Club crowd, a glimpse of Lucy Bennetts? I’m in there somewhere amongst the sunshine; Jo Topham and I are still working at the Zoo in 2018.
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Newquay Carnival 1999 – the Daihatsu zoo van (“Rescue 2”) decorated as our float, a gorilla driver  and lots of zoo staff and volunteers dressed as animals. Fun times!

The Newquay Carnival still takes place in late June / early July. Sometimes we head up from Newquay Zoo to join the parade during a busy summer and sometimes not.

Compare our 1999 Zoo Van with its 1970s and 1980s Carnival equivalent here:

More interesting Then and Now pictures to come in our next Blogposts.

Thanks again, Connie, for letting us share these snaps.


Jog any memories? Let us know any positive happy thoughts and memories via the comments section.

We would love to hear from you if you have any interesting “Then” photos of Newquay Zoo that you would like to share with us and our other blog readers.

Newquay Zoo is 50 years old on May 26th 1969 – look out for more news on how we will celebrate this big NZ50 birthday.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, Newquay Zoo, July /August  2018.




Before Newquay Zoo (B.N.Z.)

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.


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Ken Smith 


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


Charles Trevisick featured Newquay Childrens’ Zoo on only one page of his autobiography My Home Is A Zoo.


Charles Trevisick’s fleeting mention of his Newquay Zoo and its animals.


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:
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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.

You can buy the book through the Bartlett Society  at

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.

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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:

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Extracts From Russell Toft’s book Animals in The Blood (2012)

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.


1972 guide to Newquay – macaws, bikinis and golden sands.



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:


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The same photo from the 1972-3 guide but cropped or white out of the trellis background – to look more like Newquay Zoo?


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.
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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).

1969 tropical house

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:

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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.


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A seasonal collection: Trudy Smith mentioned (here) was Ken Smith’s wife.


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.



Newquay Zoo is now the other side of the Railway Viaduct, always a good locator point on old photos. Trenance Gardens, Tolcarne Brick Seat 2018






1906 – the Birth of the leisure gardens at Trenance Gardens that would one day lead to a zoo …


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1910s / 1920s Trenance Gardens , Trenance Valley scene (Homeland Guidebook)





Rose Garden Plan – what it will look like in Summer!


Where the First Newquay Children’s Zoo may have been, the trellis of the current Rose Gardens Trenance Gardens April 2018.
The Rose Gardens over winter April 2018

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!)

tolcarne brick (brick website)

Tolcarne brick from the Brick research website

The Tolcarne seat is mentioned in Newquay Discovery Trail panel outside the zoo



You can see more of this fabulous map online:




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).


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Once Tolcarne Brickworks: The zoo’s Savanna fields lie beyond the Bowling Green,  Newquay Town Guide 1952


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.


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Fields as far as you could see: 1936 Newquay Guide – beyond Trenance Bowling Club, the far fields surrounding the 1969 built zoo can be seen, where our Bison roamed briefly (1969-1973) and crazy golf is still played.


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1936 Newquay Guide. The farm fields beyond the tennis courts and Bowling green, farmland that would one day be the various attractions of Trenance Leisure Gardens (mini Railway, crazy golf and zoo) .

Probably the best glimpse that we get is the photograph taken from the Viaduct by former Council head gardener Ernie Littlefield  about 1968:


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Ernie Littlefield’s view of the zoo in 1968 whilst it was almost open fields with the mini Little Western Railway already in place. The Bowling Green is off to the left. The bear pit is taking shape. (Newquay Zoo Archive)

Compare this photo to Ernie Littlefield’s May 26, 1969 Opening Day photograph:


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Opening Day, May 26, 1969. Photo by Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo Archive.

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 few minutes walk from Newquay Zoo and Trenance Gardens – Trethellan Farm prehistopric site, Gannel Estuary (and Newquay Rocks painted pebble c. 2018)



A possible prehistoric worked flint tuned up in the zoo flowerbeds back in 2003, spotted by zoo visitor Mike Solomon.


Worked flint from our schools display case of fossils – found 31 March 2003 by Mike Solomon, Newquay Zoo.


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.

Watch this blog post and the Newquay Zoo website for details of our 50th birthday in May 2019 .

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, 24-26 May 2018












Newquay’s 1980s Zoo World of Leisure

Animal World Leaflet mentioning Conservation (c. late 1980s / early 1990s) with our Education Centre within the Tropical House and the newly rebuilt Lion House. Flamingos, Diana Monkeys, Kinkajous, Penguins and our Tarzan Trail rope bridge.



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.


The newly built or refurbished Water World late 1980s


This was all part of  renewed attempt to market the Trenance Gardens area as a ‘World’ of Leisure, 26 acres of Sports and Leisure.

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Early 1990s Animal World leaflet
Inside the early 1990s Animal World leaflet – llama, monkey walk, lioness, flamingos, walking over the stepping stones of the original Japanese or Oriental Water Gardens where otters now live.

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).

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Giant insects and a painted Black lemur (one of our early overseas conservation links) c. 1993


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I recognise that painted Lion! See where the Lion on the c. 1993 leaflet artwork comes from? Roundels usually covered up at the last minute something on the artwork we had decided against! The hedgehogs were from our Wildlife Hospital section which ran till about 2003/4.

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.

Scarlet Macaws feature on this joint advert.  


Pumas, lions and penguins feature here whilst the “new Oriental Garden and renewed Monkey Walk” of the mid to late 1980s are mentioned here as included in Zoo Admission .


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.

Zebra(s) feature on this poster.


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.

More lions of our leaflets here:

Since Animal World and the early Nineties

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 Trust 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 golf driving range is now (since 2000)  the site of Cornwall College Newquay

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.

The Lakeside Café, Boating Lake and Rose Gardens  (home to the original Charles Trevisick’s  Newquay Children’s Zoo – see below) are still flourishing.

The newly reopened Trenance Cottages Museum, Community Centre and Café is also thriving.

Here’s to another  busy season for all the activities of Newquay’s World of Leisure!

Blogposted in February 2017.