Newquay Zoo is one of Cornwall’s most popular tourist attractions, and has come on a long way since its humble beginnings.
Now a leading conservation and education centre, Newquay Zoo started life as a seasonal attraction in the 1950s. Newquay Urban District Council decided in 1969 to relocate it to a permanent home. Such was the local interest in the Zoo that by the end of the first day, 4,000 visitors had been through the gates.
Improvement through education
Originally the Zoo was owned and overseen by Restormal Borough Council. It was bought in 1994 by Mike Thomas and Roger Martin and for the next nine years was privately owned. One of the highlights of this time was the revolutionary partnership with St Austell College. This partnership established and developed an educational facility on land adjacent to the Zoo, catering for BTEC and HND studies. Now part of Cornwall College, this facility employs members of the Zoo's education staff to teach courses.
In 2003 the Zoo joined forces with Paignton Zoo and is now part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, a registered charity dedicated to conserving natural habitats and wildlife throughout the world. Newquay Zoo has become a leading centre of excellence in animal welfare and conservation. Information on all the animals in the Zoo is recorded and stored, in contrast with early records which were limited to arrival date, purchase cost, births and deaths. The old cards do make for interesting reading, with unusual deaths recorded including ‘dead bitten by alligators’ and ‘killed by bears’.
The Zoo is continually evolving. When it first opened in 1969, animals included lions, bears, leopards and flamingos. Now the Zoo has expanded, growing to 13 acres with approximately 130 species including penguins, zebras, civets, macaws and wildebeest. In 2016 a new walk-through aviary called Gems of the Jungle opened. Improvements to existing enclosures will result in a mini-makeover for the Zoo over the next few years. Conservation and breeding programmes are proving to be highly successful.
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