Newquay Zoo

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Newquay Zoo is a zoological garden located in Newquay, England. The zoo was opened in Cornwall on Whit Monday, 26 May 1969 by the local council (Newquay Urban District Council, later Restormel District Council). It was privately owned by Mike Thomas and Roger Martin from 1993 until 2003. In August 2003 Stewart Muir became the new Director and the zoo became part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, alongside Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts. The zoo is a registered charity,[1] and was awarded various South West and Cornwall 'Visitor Attraction of The Year' and 'Sustainable Tourism' awards for excellence in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Cooperative links and awards[edit]

The zoo has been recognised for providing sustainable tourism and was one of the first few British zoos to gain an ISO 14001 certificate for its environmental management systems along with a recent Gold award for GTBS Green Tourism Business Scheme.[citation needed] The zoo works within the BIAZA and EAZA zoo networks in Britain and Europe but has other ex-situ conservation links overseas.

A recent Cornwall Sustainable Tourism award and BIAZA award for sustainability projects recognised an interactive map of Newquay promoting self-guided walking tours around the town and Newquay area, featuring its history, heritage, wildlife and public transport links.[citation needed]

The zoo today[edit]

Newquay Zoo is Cornwall's largest zoo and now covers over 13 acres (53,000 m2) of land, as well as housing over 130 species. The original zoo was around 6 acres. An expansion of 3.5 acres (14,000 m2) opened as an African Savanna area from Easter 2009 followed by a central new Philippines area housing endangered fishing cat, Visayan warty pig and Philippine spotted deer.


The animal collection at Newquay consists of many species, including ex-situ conservation breeding programmes for endangered red pandas, lemurs, Sulawesi crested macaques, Humboldt penguins, fossa, marmosets, tamarins and tapirs as well as meerkats and lions.

The zoo is home to part of an international breeding programme for some endangered species such as Owston's palm civet and red-fronted macaw for which an overseas in-situ conservation support programme of funding and skills exchange exists, along with support for the unau sloth project and pacarana in South America, pangolin and small carnivore conservation programme in South East Asia. The World Land Trust BIAZA zoo reserve in South America is also supported through the wild spaces scheme. Support is also given annually to students at the Libanona Ecology Centre in Southern Madagascar. The EAZA Campaign is supported annually. Recent overseas project information can be found for each project on the zoo website. Increasingly animal species held at the zoo are listed as threatened or endangered species on the Red Data lists produced by the IUCN.

Tropical house[edit]

The zoo has an atmospheric tropical house which houses rainforest plants and animals including a sloth, tropical birds, reptiles and insects. Animal encounters and feeding time talks are also available throughout the year. A Tarzan activity adventure Trail, Children's Play Area and the Dragon Maze (designed by mazemaker Adrian Fisher in 1983) are provided for children's entertainment.

Cooperative projects[edit]

Newquay Zoo works with other organisations on events and educational projects such as the Charles Darwin bicentenary year events. It is partnering Falmouth Art Gallery in hosting Cornish artists including John Dyer to produce material for four 2009 exhibitions at Falmouth, where Charles Darwin left the HMS Beagle at the end of his voyage in 1836. Some material was lent from the growing Newquay Zoo Archive of zoo historical material for these exhibitions and displays at Falmouth and Newquay Zoo.

The zoo provides teaching input and practical opportunities for students enrolled at the adjacent Newquay Centre for Applied Zoology of Cornwall College Newquay on zoological conservation, education and media courses.

Newquay Children's Zoo Timeline early 1960s[edit]

In the late 1950s a small seasonal animal collection established each summer in Newquay's Rose and Trenance Gardens near the Boating Lake, thought to be set up by Charles Trevisick FZS and run briefly from 1966/67 by the late Ken Smith & family of the now-closed Exmouth Zoo, where the animals returned in winter. Few images or information currently exist about this early pre-zoo collection which shut in September 1969. Its curator Peter Lowe transferred to set up Newquay Zoo. A brief account of its features is given in Trevisick's autobiography My Home is a Zoo (Stanley Paul, 1976) & Russell Tofts' 2012 biography of Ken Smith, Animals in the Blood (Bartlett Society publication).

We have no photographic record of this collection, so this short description by Trevisick gives a clue to the animals involved. This now vanished collection was staffed by Mary and Joan Deeley. It most likely inspired the Children's Petting Zoo in Newquay Zoo in 1969, now the Village Farm area. Russell Tofts cites there being squirrels, civets, genets, mongooses, coatis, galagos and marmosets as well.

"In fact things went so well [at his zoo in Comyn Hill, Ilfracombe] that other seaside towns asked me to set up pets' corners. Newquay was first. With the help of the town clerk and his colleagues we planned and laid out a children's zoo at Trenance Gardens. In the centre, surrounded by a low fence, was a pet's corner where we kept a couple of goat kids , a lamb that wanted bottle feeding every few hours and any number of fluffy rabbits and guinea pigs. In heated tanks we had small harmless snakes, lizards, terrapins and tiny alligators, while at the back were cages with small monkeys, squirrels, a civet cat, a raccoon and several macaws and talking parrots. Outside in the gardens, were aviaries with budgerigars, doves, pheasants and bantams and an enclosure which held the most popular exhibit of all, a Jersey calf ..."[2]

Timeline 1969 – 1993[edit]

Based on material in the zoo archives, press cuttings and Paw Prints zoo newsletter.

Photographs exist in the zoo archive taken by the late Ernie Littlefield, head gardener for the local council, of the zoo being built including aerial views of the site before and after building, the mountains of earth and mud moved, the changing Newquay skyline and of long gone animals like Queenie and Charlie the first pair of lions.

Recently postcard images of Chinese leopards and Asian black bears have been found to add to the photos in the 1970s, 1989, 1996 and subsequent guidebooks. The zoo photograph archive is currently (2009) being catalogued and scanned. Donations of original or scanned images or film footage especially from the pre-1994 period are very welcome; contact details can be found on the website for Mark Norris, co-ordinator of the Newquay Zoo Archive (part of the education department). Newquay Zoo is also researching the history of the site where the zoo is located, as well as the early history of zoos, Victorian Zoos and zoos in World War Two. The Bartlett Society is a good source of reference for those researching zoo history.

1967 – Torrey Canyon oil spill contaminated sand spread over part of future zoo site, mostly in current car park area. Oil was reported to surface when digging holes for many years to come.

1968 – Building and landscaping work begins on developing 6 acres (24,000 m2) of the Trenance farmland (dairy) site into the present zoo site, funded by Newquay Urban District Council. Construction cost over £30,000 (in 1968/9) and was undertaken by a range of local companies including ACE Engineering and Western Road Construction. Planting was planned and undertaken by the Council Parks and Gardens department, head gardener Mr. Ernie Littlefield who photographed the changing site.

1969 – [26 May] Whit Monday opening of the zoo, over 4000 paid visitors attended (according to the West Briton newspaper 29 May 1969) and the first child through the gates at 10 a.m. was one Christopher Minns paying 1/6 (Child, one shilling and six pence in LSD pre-decimal coinage) and his father Councillor Norman Minns (Adult cost 3/6, three shillings and six pence).

The zoo opened two days behind schedule due to the difficulty of moving animals from various sources and other zoos into the zoo and settling them down under the watchful eye of Curator Peter Lowe, formerly of Chester Zoo. Other staff at the time included Alex Charity and Norman Marshall (Head Keeper).

The zoo usually closed to visitors at the end of each summer season (September / October until Easter/ Whitsun) until the change of ownership 1993 /1994.

Original structures from 1969 can still be seen include the Asian Black Bear Pit (home to Sulawesi macaques since 1995), Chinese leopard and/or puma enclosure (now home to macaws), Deer Paddock (now home to Visayan warty pigs and Philippine spotted deer), the Old Lion House (now home to Madagascan fossa), Penguin Pool (now adapted to a meerkat enclosure), Sea Lion Pool (now adapted to Humboldt penguin) and the main office block. Many of these structures have been redeveloped or are due to be replaced in the current redevelopment plan. The Walk Through Aviary, a scaled-down version of the famous Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo built in 1967, finally closed around 2005/6 to become a garden area awaiting redevelopment.

1970s – small colony of Cornish choughs established (from Irish stock), which later possibly transferred to Paradise Park at Hayle, Cornwall into the Operation Chough breeding programme. Councillor W.J. Rogers, one of those behind the decision to set up the zoo, was thought to be one of those involved in this project.

1976 – Dangerous Wild Animals Act covers large wild and exotic animals kept as pets leading to:

1977 – Ross and Demelza, pair of ex-pet African lions handed into Newquay Zoo by local farming family! Ross lives until 1997. The first pair of African lions were known as Queenie and Charlie (male). A lion was strikingly featured in the early adverts and press publicity for the zoo in 1969 and remained regularly part of the advertising until the early 2000s.

1983 – Dragon Maze planted 1982/3 by Adrian Fisher. Temporary sculptures commissioned for the maze of future evolution prey and predator pair by artist Dougal Dixon based on his book After Man: A Zoology of the Future.

1985 to 1989 – redevelopment by Restormel Borough Council of the zoo's Activity play areas, Tarzan Trail, Oriental garden and Children's Farm area. A small hedgehog hospital established and run until about 2004.

1987 – new two-storey version of Tropical House built with free-flight aviary, small aquarium and education centre / reptile room, with recorded visits of 5000 children in 1988.

1988 – new Penguin Pool developed out of old Sealion Pool (1969).

1989 – new walk though rabbit warren opened (closed by 1996)

– new Lion House built and opened by 1990.

1990– 1996? Change of name and logo to Newquay Animal World temporarily.

Timeline 1993 to 2003[edit]

1993/4 – change to private ownership under Mike Thomas and Roger Martin, who begin further redevelopments. Mike Thomas wrote about this period of ownership until 2003 in his memoir Strange Things Happened on My Way to the Zoo, published May 2010.

The zoo's membership of the Federation of Zoos (now BIAZA) and EAZA began about this time as more involvement in endangered animal breeding programmes developed. Many of the early and significant changes to the old zoo were recognised by UFAW and Federation of Zoos / BIAZA awards (listed on the zoo website), along with publications of research in zoo journals such as RATEL and IZN International Zoo News on these redevelopments organised by the curator at the time, Jon Blount (curator c. 1994–98).

1994 – Chunky, last of the original Asian black bears dies in late 1994.

– Shane and Tina, a pair of pumas arrive from the recently closed Haigh Zoo near Wigan.

– Small Aquarium section closed (and dismantled 1996)

1994 – 95 African Plains mixed enclosure (lechwe, zebra, porcupine, meerkat) created out of old sika deer paddock (closes when moved to new African savanna 2009).

1995 – Old bear pit rebuilt to house Sulawesi macaque monkeys.

1997/8 – early experiments with the zoo website, now [1] - Major the lion arrives from Longleat to replace Ross when he died of old age.

1998 – Rolf Harris opens the refurbished Penguin Pool and Village Farm.

– 7 July, first pilot Modern Foreign Languages day at the zoo in French with Camborne School Year 7. This project later wins a commendation in The Zoo Federation / BIAZA zoo education awards (see zoo website for other awards achieved in this period).

– 17 July, new puma enclosure opened by actress Jenny Agutter. Jethro and Maverick, a pair of pumas arrived in June from Belfast Zoo to keep Tina company following the death of Shane.

1999 – 11 August, zoo open during the 1999 Solar Eclipse.

2000 – September, first 16+ students enrol on courses at Cornwall College Newquay (which moved next to the zoo on Wildflower Lane site in 2003) on programme set up by Mike Thomas and Dr. Mike Kent.

2000 – Ronnie, ex-pride male lion from Longleat group retires to Newquay (and lives until December 2007, aged over 19). He replaced his half-brother, Major who he had helped force out of the Longleat group in 1997. Lizzie, an ex-Longleat lioness keeps these old males company and active.

2001 – February, foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain sees zoo closure for three to four weeks.

2003 – May, the AGM of the Zoo Federation (now BIAZA) held at Newquay. First pair of fossa, Mavis and Harry, arrive on breeding loan and produce a baby in 2007. – August, Mike Thomas and Roger Martin, owner / directors of Newquay Zoo retire and sell zoo.

Timeline 2003 to 2013[edit]

Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust period 2003 - – 14 August, Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust purchased Newquay Zoo to operate this as part of the charitable trust with Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts.

– 8 October, Cornwall College Newquay (Newquay Zoological Studies Centre for Applied Zoology) new Borlase building officially opened by Dr. Jo Gipps OBE, Director of Bristol Zoo.

New logo (portrait) showing the striped backside of a running zebra takes over from the 1996 – 2003 flag style (landscape) logo, designed to fit with the other Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust partners, Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts. Several other logo designs such as Diana monkey (linking back to the 1980s / 1990s Council zoo logo of a vervet or Diana monkey) were created but rejected during this rebranding in favour of a logo which would look forward to the opening of the African Savanna section (2009 onwards). The traditional Cornish colours of the St. Piran Flag (black and white) and Cornwall rugby strip / county coat of arms (black and gold/ orange) were maintained and adapted into the new zebra logo, in use from late 2003 onwards. One reason for this involved the fact that every zebra has individual and distinctive flank and leg stripe markings partly to aid recognition by its young, just as every zoo is individual and different but part of a wider 'herd' or movement towards wildlife conservation.

2004 – May, Whitsun, Dodo 2 zoo time capsule buried near maze to mark zoo's 35th birthday and recent change of ownership, registered with the International Time Capsule Society in USA for possible recovery in 2069 on zoo's centenary.

– July 2004, Siberian lynx arrive to live in the former Puma House (1998), the last of the Newquay pumas having died earlier in the year. These retire to other zoos in early 2009 when Carpathian lynx, Boomer and Willow arrive from European zoos on breeding loan.

2006– One of three pairs of Owston's civets into UK zoos arrive at Newquay Zoo as part of a conservation programme from Cuc Phoung National Park in Vietnam.

2007 – 26 June, Newquay's first fossa baby 'Little Geoff' born to the Newquay Zoo pair Mavis and Harry. Little Geoff (named after the late Geoff Gerry, one of the Council zoo staff who worked on into the new ownership)transferred to Poznan Zoo in Poland as part of the breeding programme in 2009. - December 2007, Ronnie the lion dies.

2008 – Junior Keeper scheme launched for 8 to 14-year olds, which won a BIAZA Education award in November 2009.

2008 – Kabir, a rare Barbary lion, retires from Longleat as short-lived company for Connie, who was not impressed by her new charge. Kabir is known to have been descended from the Barbary lions owned by the king of Morocco when the last known Barbary in the wild was shot in the 1920s, also verified by DNA tests. He successfully sired several litters of cubs at Longleat who may carry his Barbary gene.

2009 – April, African Savannah and Philippines sections open, taking the zoo acreage to around 13.5 acres (55,000 m2), double its original 1969 size. Wildebeest, nyala and ostrich arrive. Carpathian lynx arrive.

The original site of the new African Savannah was formerly known as 'Little Wembley', a very boggy school playing field, believed to be waterlogged from being built over the clay-based area of 19th-century Tolcarne Brickworks.

2009– 29 May, Whitsun, second zoo time capsule buried near maze to mark zoo's 40th birthday, registered with the International Time Capsule Society in USA for possible recovery in 2069 on zoo's centenary.

2009 – four exhibitions celebrating Darwin's 200th Birthday darwin200 hosted in partnership with Falmouth Art Gallery, with resident artist John Dyer and others painting and recording the work of the zoo in 2008 and 2009. Paintings from this residency period are collected together in the book by John Dyer, My Darwin 200 Year.

2009 – 30 August, World War Zoo gardens project launched, a research project into how zoos around Britain and further afield survived wartime and a recreation of a wartime zoo keepers' dig for victory garden with regularly updated project blog [2] winning a BIZAZ gardens award in November 2011.

2009 – Charlie, an African lion past breeding age retires to keep bossy older sister Connie company.

2009 – the old wildlfe and hedgehog hospital section refurbished as a Native Wildlife Centre with harvest mouse and displays on heathland by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to match the sand lizard section.

2009 – 24 November, 150th anniversary of publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species marked by publication of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps, jointly published with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and blog updates [3]

2010 – February, opening of first sections of new walk-through Madagascan Aviary enclosure on site of vasa parrot aviary, for Madagascar grey headed lovebird, Madagascar partridge and vasa parrot. The adjacent old chough aviary area is now home to crowned lemur and Madagascar narrow-striped mongoose.

A Sulawesi macaque book for primary school children written in English and Bahasan Indonesian for primary schools on Sulawesi, along with a trail version of the book established around the zoo to celebrate the conservation, education and breeding programmes of Selamatkan Yaki, ('Protect the Macaque' in Sulawesi Bahasan Indonesian).[3]

2011 / 2012 – New African aviaries are built as part of the Gems of the Jungle project. - Newquay Zoo wins its first BIAZA Planting award for its World War Zoo Gardens project wartime allotment recreation.[4]

2012 – Charlie the lion dies; his place is taken by Samson, a young African lion exiled from the group at Combe Martyn Wildlife Park.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°24′41″N 5°04′05″W / 50.4114°N 5.0680°W / 50.4114; -5.0680