World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo wins a ‘zoo Oscar’ national BIAZA 2011 gardening award

Staff at Newquay Zoo are celebrating after World War Zoo, a unique wartime garden project, has won a prestigious award in the zoo world.

The BIAZA award for best use of plants in a landscape feature went to Newquay Zoo for the World War Zoo gardens project.

Newquay Zoo's wartime gardener and blogger Mark Norris with the BIAZA award for best plants in a landscape feature and design.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) annual awards ceremony are dubbed the ‘zoo oscars’ as they recognise outstanding contributions and achievements made by member zoos in the fields of conservation, animal welfare advances, animal husbandry, enclosure design, marketing, PR, education and research.

The 2011 BIAZA awards were presented by TV vet Steve Leonard at an award dinner and zoo conference at in the impressive new Himalaya conference space and visitor centre at Twycross Zoo on 16th November.  Snow leopards strolled down off their roacky outcrop to come and watch through the large floor to ceiling windows.  Steve’s own blog can be found at 

As this blog formed part of our BIAZA award submission, I’d like to  thank  all our readers for your comments, feedback and interest (over 25,000 hits) which has supported us since 2009. 

As  leader of the wartime garden project, I am thrilled that this project has received this award.

It was two years ago that I asked Newquay Zoo Director Stewart Muir if we could dig up lawns and flower beds to recreate a ‘Dig for Victory’ garden. Since then the project has gone from strength to strength – providing food for the animals, a talking point for visitors and a living memorial to many men, women and children involved in the war effort, reflecting the gardens that sprung up in unlikely places all over the country during World War Two, including zoos.

To be recognised by peers in the zoo world for the wartime garden project is extremely rewarding, especially because the standard of nominations is usually very high.

I was very pleased to be asked to do a presentation during the conference about the project to zoo educators and other zoo staff, taking part of our travelling display and artefacts with me. I’m looking forward to doing the same to our zoology students at Cornwall College Newquay as part of the rresearch seminar programme in January 2012.

The history and garden project has proved a great talking point with visitors, and Mark has picked up some useful gardening tips ‘over the fence’. ‘I have learnt a lot from talking to visitors of all ages and look forward to talking to more garden societies. I have really enjoyed listening to visitors’ stories and views about food, rationing, animals, green issues, zoos and family history.

Our sister zoo Paignton Zoo, which alongside Newquay Zoo and Living Coasts in Torquay is part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, was highly commended by BIAZA for a research project on howler monkeys.

Dr Miranda Stevenson, Director of BIAZA said: “The BIAZA awards highlight the significant achievements within the zoo world and once again this year’s award-winning projects show the exceptional contributions our members make to conservation and education each year. Equally, they are standard bearers for excellence in animal husbandry and welfare. We congratulate all the winners.”

What next for 2012 ?

November and December is quite quiet in the garden at the moment, so apart from planning next year’s plantings, we’re harvesting the last of the Autumn crops to tidy our plot up. Monkeys love our Green Globe Artichokes, especially when thrown by Junior Keepers onto the top mesh of enclosures (like weird vegtable hand-grenades) to make them difficult to reach.  Excellent enrichment for monkeys and very entertaining for visitors to watch. Future note: wartime steel helmets will be  useful when artichokes bounce off the mesh at the first few throws  …

The World War Zoo Gardens project forms part of the Zoo’s education programme, which runs successful curriculum linked workshops from Early Years Foundation Stage through to Higher Education. We’re currently working on our new (2012) primary history workshops, resource packs and talks for schools about the Home Front (Primary History Unit 9, Years 3 to 6) on how zoos, their staff, animals and vsistors survived the dangers and challenges of wartime – keep watching our website

We’re also working on a dedicated new World War Zoo Gardens website within the next month to support the project – watch this space! 

As well as  blogging, I am currently  doing research for a book on zoos and botanic gardens in wartime, which will highlight how zoos survived during World War Two and how we can learn from this for the future.  Whilst at Twycross Zoo, I spent a day in their zoo library, which also holds the library and archives of the Bartlett Society (, looking at the range of books and memoirs on zoos worldwide and looking for scattered snippets about their wartime survival strategies. I was also following up references for some of the civilian wartime diaries I’m editing for publication in 2012. These diaries will be sold through Newquay Zoo’s online shop online being set up later in 2012 with profits going back to running the zoo and its many education and overseas conservation projects. A Christmas present for the list, but for December 2012 …

Enjoy your gardening … and a peaceful December.

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One Response to “World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo wins a ‘zoo Oscar’ national BIAZA 2011 gardening award”

  1. 1941 grimmest year of the war 75 years on | Worldwarzoogardener1939's Blog Says:

    […] 2011 was the year of our BIAZA Zoo Gardening award in November:… […]


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