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Strange Things Happened on My Way to the Zoo

Mike Thomas

Strange Things Happened cover

Strange Things Happened cover image

Jenny tick­ling tapirs

Jenny and Roger tickling tapirs © Michelle Turton photo

Rolf Har­ris

Rolf Harris opens new penguin pool photo

Ron­nie and Connie

Ronnie and Connie © Michelle Turton photo

Sil­very marmosets

Silvery Marmoset babies © Michelle Turton photo

‘If it hadn’t been for the strange things that happened on my way to the zoo, I never would have got there.’ So says Mike Thomas, who left his child­hood home in Wales to teach, and in Corn­wall became an entre­pren­eur, an owner of the Seal Sanc­tu­ary, then owner of Newquay Zoo. ‘I didn’t know a lot about zoos, but I did know Ger­ald Durrell’s Jer­sey Zoo. It was my inspir­a­tion.’ When Mike bought Newquay Zoo it was an ail­ing tour­ist attrac­tion, and in the early years it seemed it would sink under a moun­tain of debt. But with a pas­sion­ate con­cern for the wel­fare of the anim­als in his care, a ded­ic­ated staff, and help and advice from col­leagues at other zoos, Mike made the Zoo a place he was proud of.

Inform­at­ive and enter­tain­ing, this book is a must for animal lov­ers, and for every­one inter­ested in con­ser­va­tion and education.

I have spent many happy times walk­ing through Newquay Zoo with Mike, and though I knew how ded­ic­ated he was, I had no idea just how much hard work was involved in turn­ing that limp­ing duck of a busi­ness into the soar­ing eagle it became dur­ing his ten years’ own­er­ship. From broken ankles to escap­ing apes, from the beast of Bod­min Moor to the dev­ast­a­tion of foot and mouth, this is a story told from the heart, by a man with aston­ish­ing ded­ic­a­tion to the animal world and the wider wel­fare of our planet and the people who live upon it. Well done Mike, you owned a zoo… not many can say that!’ (Phil­lip Schofield, Tele­vi­sion Presenter)

A very enjoy­able read, and brought back inter­est­ing memor­ies of what must have been one of the strangest applic­a­tions of DNA iden­ti­fic­a­tion, even if it failed to identify the Beast. It also brought back very pleas­ant recol­lec­tions of the days that my fam­ily and I have spent at Newquay Zoo – it might be small, but it is great!’ (Pro­fessor Sir Alec Jef­freys, Genet­i­cist)

I loved vis­it­ing Newquay Zoo with my son when Mike Thomas owned it. There was always some­thing new hap­pen­ing, and the place had a spe­cial atmo­sphere. (I was also extremely grate­ful when my son’s two very small turtles were adop­ted and given a home at Newquay.) Strange Things Happened on My way to The Zoo, is a won­der­fully enter­tain­ing and enlight­en­ing account of the unusual and cir­cuit­ous jour­ney Mike Thomas made before even­tu­ally own­ing a Zoo. It is also a joy to dis­cover what being the owner of a Zoo really entails.’ (Jenny Agut­ter, Act­ress)

Part of the pro­ceeds from sales of this book will be donated to the Children’s Hos­pice South West Pre­cious Lives Appeal.

You can use Google Book Search to look inside this book here.

Mike Thomas was born in Wales. He spent a num­ber of years teach­ing, and sub­sequently ran sev­eral suc­cess­ful busi­nesses in Corn­wall before own­ing The Seal Sanc­tu­ary and then Newquay Zoo.

  • Acknow­ledge­ments
  • Early Daze
    Tone Deaf­ness is in the Ear of the Beholder
    Chalk on My Hands
    We are Sail­ing
    The Fur­ries at the Bot­tom of the Garden
    A Step in the Right Direction
  • Mar­ine Daze
    Fur Coats and Wet­suits
    Wav­ing Good­bye to Mer­maids
    I See No Pigs
    A Royal Soak­ing
    A Royal Birth
    Lib­eral Views
    Polit­ics Pay Dividends
    Not a Fish Out of Water
    No Sale Ahead
    War and Peace
    Full Sale Ahead
  • Zoo Daze
    Bad News
    The Strong Wind of Change
    A Very Tasty Rain­forest
    Home, Sweet Home
    And Sheep May Safely Graze
    P… P… P… Pick Up a Pen­guin
    A Loose Knee­cap
    The Coron­a­tion of the New King
    Birds in Para­dise
    Where the Grass Might be Greener
    Who’s a Pretty Boy, Then?
    Lame Kangaroos Can’t Jump
    Din­ing Out with a Friend
    Kept in the Dark
    Mrs Grif­fiths’ Roast Pota­toes
    Grin­ners in the Mist
    A Time of Con­veni­ence
    Marc’s Arc
    HQ was all it was Cracked up to Be
  • Paw Prince
    Once Upon A Time Big Cats Were Kit­tens
    Put­ting One’s Foot in It
  • The Rising Phoenix
    Nice to See You
    Where Have all the Cows Gone?
    A Lion’s Tale
    Vis­it­ors from the Sky
    Bangers and Mash
  • Back to the Future
    Begin­ning at the End

ISBN: 9780906720738
1st edi­tion
160 pages
112 col­our and black and white pho­to­graphs
210 x 148 mm

Newquay Zoo is now … a fore­un­ner in effect­ive wild­life con­ser­va­tion – but the jour­ney there was a long and rocky one. … Mike Thomas shows the hairy highs and tough-​​skinned lows … in a tale that sees the zoo rise from a debt-​​ridden facil­ity to the suc­cess it has become.’ (Newquay Voice, 05.05.10)

gives a real insight into the enorm­ous ded­ic­a­tion it takes to revive an ail­ing busi­ness and to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful tour­ist attrac­tion.’ (West­ern Morn­ing News, 22.05.10) You can read the full review and see pho­tos from the book here.

an inform­at­ive and enter­tain­ing book about Mike’s life with the rare anim­als at Newquay Zoo’ (BBC Radio Corn­wall, 27.05.10). Mike Thomas spoke about his early days at the zoo in an inter­view with BBC Radio Cornwall’s Mar­tin Bailie. You can read about this and listen to his memor­ies here.

Mike is a man with vis­ion and stature and very clear, very good ideas. He’s an intel­li­gent man and a good thinker’ (ZooChat, 02–04-10)

A great wild­life adven­ture in his own back yard … “The hap­pi­est dec­ade of my life” is how Mike Thomas describes his 10 years’ own­er­ship of Newquay Zoo.’ (The Cornish­man and West Bri­ton 15.07.10. You can read the whole review here.)

Mike Thomas … is for­tu­nate indeed to have the abil­ity to nar­rate his tales in such a charm­ing way … a great read.’ (Corn­wall Today, August 2010)

a highly enter­tain­ing book about his exper­i­ences’ (Cornish Guard­ian, 04.08.10)

Mike Thomas paints a delight­ful pen por­trait of child­hood at Siloam… of walk­ing in the forest, of tick­ling trout and of the activ­it­ies and char­ac­ters of Siloam Baptist Chapel. …
‘Mike Thomas has led a remark­able life’ (West­ern Morn­ing News, 17.08.10)

Former zoo owner’s mem­oir is a keeper… a book that can be really enjoyed’ (Fal­mouth Packet, 17.11.10)

writ­ten with humour and sens­it­iv­ity, this is bound to be a book for all animal lov­ers, but it is also an inspir­ing life’s tale for any­one.
’… well-​​produced… good value.’ (Old Corn­wall, vol. XIV, no. 4, Spring 2011)

Mike was invited to speak at the Daphne du Maur­ier Fest­ival in May 2010, and at the Rose­land Fest­ival in Octo­ber 2010.

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