It is with great sadness that we inform you that Mike Reynolds, visionary and founder of the World Parrot Trust and Paradise Park in Cornwall, died peacefully at home on Saturday 14th April.
The 76-year-old leaves a widow Audrey, son Nick, three daughters Alison, Helen and Kate, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren with another due any day. He also leaves a wider 'family' of employees at Paradise Park -- some of whom have been employed at the Park for several decades.
There will initially be a private funeral for family only. His ashes are to be buried in the gardens at Paradise Park. The family has requested that donations are made to the World Parrot Trust instead of floral tributes (see Mike Reynolds Memorial Fund). At a later date there will be a memorial party with good wine, food and jazz music for family and friends to celebrate his life and say goodbye.
Michael Reynolds was a creative, entrepreneurial and inspirational force. He has made significant and outstanding contributions to British culture throughout his life by thinking laterally, being industrious, and always following his convictions and passions.
Career No.1 - Advertising
After serving in the British army, Mike worked in advertising agencies in the early days of commercial television. His most memorable and long lived advertising creation is the Milky Bar Kid. In 1961 Mike led the team, which developed this character, and wrote the words for the tune which accompanied him though 40 years on television. The Milky Bar Kid has come up often in 'top advertising' lists for the past 4 decades and has recently been re-launched yet again.
During his advertising years, Mike's fascination with the beauty and charisma of parrots began. He owned several pairs of birds and began dreaming of moving with his family to Cornwall, where they had enjoyed many holidays, to create a 'paradise' where he could indulge his love of birds and share it with visitors. Finding space and acceptance in the seaside town of Hayle was no small task but eventually Mike found 'Glanmor House'. In 1973 he opened 'Bird Paradise' there and over the next 33 years turned it into an award winning sanctuary for rare birds which became Cornwall's top tourist attraction.
One early visitor, Dame Barbara Hepworth DBE wrote "the experience of my visit was one of the happiest times I have had in years and years. The amount of hard work, knowledge, expertise and love which must have gone into building Bird Paradise amazes me. Every single bit of the seven acres was aesthetically right, down to the last bit of bark and the right weeds, and the birds seemed to be very much at peace."
Building Community and a Legacy
A year after opening Bird Paradise (later renamed Paradise Park) Mike formed the Cornwall Association of Tourist Attractions (CATA). His aim was to encourage attraction owners to work together to promote each other and raise quality standards. At a time when Cornwall had very few attractions, seven joined. Now, over 30 years later, CATA is a respected organisation with over 40 members.
Mike's commitment to the Cornwall community and to the creation of a premier bird park never ceased as he continued to make improvements to the park. Stable buildings were refurbished into a pub and brewery, the 'Bird In Hand' which opened in 1977, creating more jobs, a year-round income and a popular local pub. A number of local people have found long-term employment at Paradise Park, some for over 30 years.
The 30th anniversary of the Park was reached in April 2003, and this significant date was marked by a visit by HRH Princess Alexandra. The Princess spent several hours meeting the birds and watching a special bird show, before unveiled a plaque in celebration.
Recently, in a continued attempt to increase tourism year round, Mike completed what turned into the biggest investment he had ever made to secure the future of the Park. The addition of the 'Jungle Barn' at Paradise Park fulfilled Mike's vision of a year round, indoor facility for families visiting the Park. The new building houses an extensive soft play area for children, three giant slides and a special toddler area. With a café, four party/meeting rooms and an outdoor balcony the Jungle Barn has created much needed local, full time jobs, and has become a welcome venue where people come together to visit and enjoy safe, energetic play. A "no junk food policy" and healthy food choices add to the value of the family experience.
Mike's efforts to raise standards in tourism, for the disabled and the local community, were recognised by the Cornwall Tourist Board in November 2005, when Paradise Park was chosen as Cornwall's 'Visitor Attraction of the Year'.
From the beginning, Mike recognised that Paradise Park not only provided great family entertainment but also an excellent opportunity for them to learn about the conservation of rare animals. Aviaries were built as large as possible, and colourful and informative signs and entertaining daily events all inspire a love of wildlife. Creating strong links with local colleges has meant that students of all abilities find educational placements with the Keeping staff. And because the animals themselves are key to conservation, all rare species kept at the Park are in the 'studbook' system, with offspring often swapped with other zoos to keep genetic diversity within captive populations.
World Parrot Trust
As he learned more about the plight of parrots in the wild, Mike decided that this family of birds required a dedicated effort if the most critical would be saved from certain extinction. In 1989 he established the World Parrot Trust (WPT) with the aim of preserving parrots in the wild and ensuring the welfare of captive birds. Michael and his wife Audrey provided initial funding to start the Trust, in addition to free office space and facilities.
Under his guidance, first as Honorary Director and then as Chairman, the Trust has grown into a conservation powerhouse with representatives in 11 countries, thousands of members, and parrot conservation projects around the globe.
During the first year, WPT put much of its initial limited resources towards the rare Echo Parakeet of Mauritius. With less than 15 known individuals left in the wild, this unique parrot was likely the world's rarest. WPT has continued to fund this project, contributing over £120,000 in field conservation work and facilitating assistance from recognized experts in Britain and afar. Now there are just over 300 Echo Parakeets on Mauritius. It was precisely this kind of recovery that Mike had seen a need for when he launched the World Parrot Trust, and success with the Echo encouraged him to pursue many projects elsewhere around the globe.
Early in the 1990's Mike heard about the plight of parrots in the Caribbean and developed a project to promote local understanding and protective pride in these birds using buses as mobile classrooms. Over the next five years, four brightly painted parrot buses were outfitted with lively interactive displays, games and videos, with the first three buses donated to the Caribbean islands of St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica. The success of this innovative approach to conservation brought not only a turnaround in the fortunes of the target parrot populations, but a major award from the BBC Wildlife magazine.
A champion for all parrots, Mike Reynolds personally instigated the creation of the 1st ever 'Parrot Action Plan.' The Action Plan is a working document which outlines the threats to parrots in general, details the status of individual species and sets a course of action for their recovery. Mike facilitated a gathering of parrot experts from around the world to accomplish this feat of collaboration. The resulting Plan helped set a course which WPT and other conservation groups continue to follow today.
Whilst critically threatened species needed special attention, Mike also recognized a broader threat facing nearly all parrots: international trade in wild parrots for the pet market. With concern for the threat to the wild bird populations and the millions of bird which die in the trade each year, Mike initiated a campaign to end imports of wild parrots for the European pet trade. Since November of 2000, the Trust has pursued this campaign on many fronts, forming a coalition of over 200 NGO's, and working with both member states and the European Commission to develop solutions. To highlight the plight of wild parrots and raise awareness of the role of European imports, the Trust launched a 'World Parrot Day' which took place in May 2004. Zoos around the world joined in the celebration, and an open-topped bus provided a centrepiece for a gathering at Trafalgar Square. Supporters with their pet parrots later promenaded to Downing Street to deliver the Trust's petition containing tens of thousands of signatures from dozens of countries, calling for a ban on wild bird imports.
A temporary ban (due to bird flu) in October 2005, gave new impetus to the campaign, and the World Parrot Trust's continued work was rewarded in January 2007 when the European Union announced a permanent ban from 1st July 2007.
Responding to deep concern about the conservation of birds closer to home, Mike Reynolds set up 'Operation Chough' aiming to help the Cornish Chough, Cornwall's 'national' bird, which after many years of decline eventually died out of the Duchy in 1972. The project focuses on studying these naturally sedentary coastal birds still living in Wales and re-establishing birds back in Cornwall.
Breeding the Chough in captivity proved a difficult task, but Mike persisted in developing new and successful techniques, and a trial release of six birds was made in 2003. Recently, Choughs have been making an apparently natural recolonisation in Cornwall, and Operation Chough has been focusing on education and publicity of issues such as habitat restoration.
As part of another local re-introduction project, Mike arranged for six native Red Squirrels to come to Paradise Park on breeding loan. Specially designed enclosures were constructed and the squirrels have bred successfully over several years. So far, 2004 was been the best year for young squirrels, with 15 sent to join the re-introduction project.
Mike Reynolds' outstanding contribution to the Cornish economy and natural heritage through the creation of Paradise Park and the World Parrot Trust cannot be overstated. His unique vision in creating a bird conservation park and his sheer focus on perfecting the park and its role in the community have benefited generations of visitors, both locally and internationally. His successful launch of the World Parrot Trust put the UK on the map as a leader in parrot conservation and welfare. It is a truly rare individual that can accomplish so much with such grace and creativity. Mike has no doubt impacted Britain and the world in a profound and significant way.