Newquay Zoo is a small zoo of 4 hectare. The size of the grounds is perhaps the reason that the Zoo focuses on small species. There is the odd African lion, but probably this species is part of the animal collection because zoos are expected to have at least one big predator species on display. And it draws public, of course! There is not much space to provide animals of this size and behaviour a state-of-the-art enclosure. Nevertheless, they tried, but they have only two lions (brother and sister) to take care of, which is not exactly a pride — the natural social community for lions. The outside enclosure, a fenced-off area with some trees and grass bedding, is quite exposed, but contains several high level platforms. The indoor enclosure has got tiled walls and is rather small, and to be considered a shelter for the night and bad weather. But something that is quite extraordinary in modern zoos nowadays, the visitor can have a look at the interior of the indoor enclosure. This seems to be a feature of Newquay Zoo, because the public is allowed to have a look inside many indoor quarters. While in many modern zoos the public can see the animals in their large outdoor or indoor enclosures, but (night) shelters are off-limits for the regular visitor.
The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox), the apex predator of Madagascar, can be found opposite of the African lion. Male and female are kept separate to avoid injuries, and only during mating season they are allowed to enjoy each other’s company. These muscular and slender animals have bred successfully here in Newquay, which might be due to the enrichment methods that are applied (see video). Both the animals get their feed (a rabbit) in a ‘fossa feeding ball’, which is a wire mesh ball that hangs about one metre above ground. So, the animals have to work for their daily portion of food. To create some excitement both the male and female are allowed in each other’s quarters regularly, while the rightful inhabitant is locked up inside its night shelter. The smell of the opposite sex keeps them busy for some time when they are released again in the enclosure. Furthermore, the male has got a treadmill, and both enclosures contain lots of tree trunks, shrubs, rocks as enrichment.
In this corner of the Zoo, two other carnivore species are to be found, the meerkats and the Eurasian lynx. The lynx is the subspecies from the Carpathian mountain range in Central Europe, which supports the largest contiguous Eurasian Lynx population west of the Russian border. This Lynx lynx carpathicus has access to a varied outdoor enclosure with trees and shrubs, including an observation platform and shelter on the upper side of the rocky rear wall. The public must climb a staircase in a small tower to see whether the lynx is lying there when the enclosure seems empty. Together with the indoor shelter it is the only way for the lynx to hide from the pubic, because apart from this man and beast are only separated by wire mesh fences.
I haven’t seen many zoos without penguins in their animal collection, and also Newquay has got a penguin species on display. Their Humboldt penguins take part in the European Endangered Species programme, but I’ve seen more impressive penguin enclosures than the bare, simple and straightforward enclosure here at Newquay. More interesting is the next door enclosure which houses the Brazilian tapir. In front of their spacious meadow there is a pond with a monkey island inhabited by emperor tamarins. These small New World monkeys have access to a large indoor facility which occupies approximately one-third of the total area of the island. Adjacent to the tapir meadow the capybara can be found which probably have access to the pond now and again, although they have their own small pond too. After this South American exhibit you enter the oriental garden where the Asian small-clawed otters’ enclosure is situated as well as the enclosure that houses the Owston’s civet (Chrotogale owstoni) and the colourful Prevost’s squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii). This small green enclosure, erected with wooden beams and wire mesh fences, contains lots of foliage and tree trunks. Newquay Zoo is home to the rare Owston’s civet since 2004, and is involved in the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Programme in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam. The Zoo has a good track record breeding this civet species with one or two babies being born every year since 2006. A little further along the footpath the fishing cats have an excellent exhibit with ample opportunities to hide from the public. It is a nice green enclosure with a stream, small waterfall, a pond, palm trees and ferns. Much attention is paid to feeding enrichment, with crabs and fish hidden around the stream and pond at feeding time. Meat frozen in large floating ice cubes is another form of enrichment that gives these rare cats from the Asian region something to do.
Across from the fishing cats the African savannah of 1.2 hectare is situated. This extension (2009) of the Zoo grounds was a boggy area that needed extensive drainage and restoration before it could be used as a mixed species exhibit for a variety of African species. Now it is a large paddock with Chapman’s zebra, waterbuck, nyala, Kafue Flats lechwe antelope, white-tailed gnu (a group that came from Dvur Kralove Zoo), grey-crowned crane, white stork and helmeted guinea fowl.
Stretched along this side of the park, from front to rear, large ponds with several monkey islands can be found. Farthest from the entrance marmosets (pygmy, silvery and Geoffroy’s) and pied tamarin inhabit several islands, while close to the Zoo entrance and Lemur Café black-and-white ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs can be seen. On a sunny day it must be a delight to sit on the café terrace and observe the lemurs having their sunbath. A typical feature, and different from many other zoos, are the indoor enclosures that are situated on the islands themselves. Zookeepers have to walk through the shallow water to clean the enclosures and feed the primates.
On the other side of the Zoo entrance primates are kept in a row of exhibits called the Monkey Walk. All of these primates — common squirrel monkey, yellow-breasted capuchin (Cebus xanthosternos) and Diana monkey — are kept in similar enclosures. An indoor part with windows where the public can see the animals when they are hiding from bad weather, connected to an outdoor part. The indoors have painted concrete walls and woodchip bedding, enriched by ropes and tree trunks, while the outdoors consists of a wire mesh cage with grassy ground and the same kind of enrichment.
A rather peculiar enclosure is the one of the black-crested macaques, which seems not specifically designed for primates. It looks like a gigantic bear pit of the old days, with the stony walls protected from climbing by electric wire. It houses a nice group of macaques of different ages, including young and playful ones (see video. In the centre of the ‘bear pit’ there is a hill enriched with a variety of climbing materials, such as ropes, ladders, broad rubber bands, wooden poles and platforms.
The Tropical House is a mixed species exhibit of birds and small mammals from different geographical regions. It’s a walk-through house with observation platforms on two levels. There is a small waterfall and a pond, and the setting enables close-encounters with the inhabitants, such as blue-crowned laughing thrush, Luzon bleeding-heart pigeon, Bali starling, Rodrigues fruit bat and lesser Malayan chevrotain. In addition, there is a section with amphibians (such as beautiful poison-arrow frogs) and reptiles.
The species of Newquay Zoo’s animal collection are not grouped in a way that can easily be recognised. It appears as if they try to have the species grouped according geographical origin, but are still only halfway down the process. Which might be true, by the way. The African savannah, oriental garden and region with Philippine species represent this bio-geographical grouping. In addition, some Madagascan species are grouped together in the Madagascar walk-through aviary and adjacent enclosure with narrow-striped mongoose (Mungotictis decemlineata) and crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus).This enclosure consists of three indoor areas, two for the mongooses and one for the lemurs, as well as a large outdoor area which is shared by all the animals. Both species appear to be very active and the Zoo’s management feels that their daily encounters are enriching and stimulating. Other Madagascan species can be found in different areas of the premises, such as lemurs on some of the monkey islands.
Furthermore, some of the carnivores (lion, fossa, lynx, meerkats) are grouped together, but the otters, Owstons’ civets, fishing cats, kinkajou and red panda are kept in other parts of the park. The same can be said of the primates of course, with the Monkey Walk focused on primate species, but in fact you can find primates all over the park.
So, the grouping is a bit diffuse, confusing, and work-in-progress. Fortunately, the information panels at the enclosures provide good guidance for those who want to learn something.