Friday, March 18, 2011

Noyka and Simba

This postcard is labeled Noyka and Simba. Going on the assumption that Simba is the horribly overweight lion(caricature is the word that comes to mind), does anyone know anything at all about "Noyka?" The painted back drop almost looks more like a zoo situation then a circus, yet the clothing is odd.


Sam said...

Nick Noyoka (his real name was Adrian Darley)was a character on the British zoo scene during the 60s and 70s. Simba is often reported to have been the largest lion on record. Noyoka was really intereted in reptiles and successfully kept King Cobras when everyone else was failing. He also owned one of the longest Reticulated Pythons in captivity at the time ("Cassius" - 28ft). He knocked around in various zoos including Colchester, Sandown and Knaresborough (where he eventually became the owner). Knareborough Zoo closed in 1985 as it could not meet the legislation imposed by the Zoo Licening Act (1984). A stuffed Lion in an antique shop in cardiff is labeled as being THE Simba but I am highly suspicious. There is plenty of info out there to be googled.

Anonymous said...

from Jim Stockley: NICK NYOKA (Adrian Darley) Born in Stockton 1921. Zookeeper and owner of Knaresborough Zoo North Yorkshire.

gazrob said...


I seem to remember comments relating to Nick and Knaresborough zoo, here on your blog, I believe at some point last year. There is information relating to Nyoka 'Adrian Darley' on various sites, reporting that he had some history in circus, prior to taking over the zoo prior to it's ultimate closure in the 1980's. I would suggest the photograph was taken at Knareborough Zoo with Nick wearing one of his old show costumes.


Wade G. Burck said...

Thank you for the great information.
For folks interested in "ghost zoos" Knaresbourough zoo has a facebook page with some old photos at "We Miss Knaresborough Zoo." It is not hard to see how it could not meet legislation/requirements of the Zoo Licensing Act.
It say's that Simba ate 20 lbs of meet a day and drank a gallon of milk. That's not much different then a normal feline intake, with the exception of a gallon of milk, which is odd.
It also mentions one of the "smallest" lions ever recorded, a "Marozi." Has anyone ever heard of a "Marozi" lion? It seem's Mr. Noyoka was as full of show biz bs as you can be, LOL.

Sam said...

I don't think this famous photo of Nyoka and Simba was taken at Knaresboough. I think it was more likely to be Colchester or Sandown (the painted breeze blocks are reminiscent of Sandown of the time). Knaresborough Zoo was originally opened by Ed Millborrow in the mid 60s. Associated Pleasure Parks (Pentland Hick et al.) bought the place in the late 60s by which time Nyoka was the curator. When Don Robinson partnered back up with APP in 1972, Knaresborough was sold to Nyoka who continued to run it until 1985. A TV documentary was made about its closure at the time and it was written up by the RSPCA inspector put in charge of dispersing the animals in his autobiography.

Anonymous said...

this is what I could find about this so called Marozi lion.


Wade G. Burck said...

I am not familiar with the term "breeze block?" Are you Pom's goofing on us Colonist's again.
Nostalgia is a wonderful feeling. Some of the old way's of animal husbandry are loved and remembered for that reason, but realistically, if we are honest we need to use them as learning tools to move forward. Not just the zoo world, but also the circus. I shake my head at some of the folks and some of the show's that are revered today.
Great insight, thank you. Why do you doubt that the lion in the shop in Cardiff is "Simba?"

Wade G. Burck said...

We can sure see why Noyoka would be linked with a cryptozoology animal can't we, given the "safari" picture, as well as the Ringling elephant picture from Madison Sq. Garden. No disrespect to him(because he sure isn't an exception), but I think the animal husbandry/training field need's to have a Fakes/Frauds section in it's history like the the field of Cryptozoology does. Too bad we had to lose the good old day's when famed Zoologist's like Carl Hagenbeck could sell a liger for a reputed 2 million dollars. LOL Not!!!

Anonymous said...

I use to visit nick and he was so interesting to talk to.One day i went and he greeted me with his arms covered in blood and his walking stick,when i asked what had happened he said he had to part his fighting burmese pythons.Also in jars were very strange colour and pattern baby retics and burmese.Photos of him fishing with his panther beside him.The stories he could tell,like virginia mckenna in born free deliberatly staging the lioness fight,getting a n elephant for ronald regan,animals he obtained for hollywood films,amazing man.

Jan said...

I saw Nyoka at Sandbay in 1973 or 74 when I was on holiday as a child. I remember seeing him 'performing' with his black panther and snake and have the postcards featured signed by him. Unfortunately I don't remember much else other than being fascinated with the relationship he had with his animals. Thanks for the extra info on him

lorna said...

I use to visit nick,he must have been in his last years of life,he still had a cage full of big burmese pythons and one day got there and he had blood all over his arm and hand.When i asked him what had happened he casually said one of the burmese got him.I remember seeing various photographs on his wall with different celebrities,also a photo of himself as a circus act with a lion across his shoulders (a strong man act ).If anyone knew him he was not a big man.I was only in my twenties and found him to be so interesting.He also had jars of preserved python babies all different colours and patterns.He told me he had got animals for films with clark gable in,an elephant for ronald regan and a rogue female lion for born free film,to fight elsa.He was an amazing man and very much missed.

Stuart said...

I am researching a potential documentary about Nick Nyoka and would love to hear from amyone who has met him or has stories, information, photos or video footage of him. Please email me at:
Many thanks

Patrick McGrorty said...

I used to collect newts at a reservoir at sandown and sell them to him for 1old penny each for his snakes. The picture is definatly Sandown Zoo in the mid 60s. He used to dress like that for his displays. Simba pee'd on me when he was in a coach before the enclosure was ready. Great memories.

Anonymous said...

Simba was at Knaresborough Zoo, as i lived in Knaresborough. Simba would roar at 9pm every evening and the whole town could hear him. The elephant would often be walked around town too. Looking back now, yes the zoo really wasn't up to it, but he did look after his animals like they were his children.

DougB said...

Knaresborough Zoo was located in what had been the walled garden of Conyingham Hall, that was built by Macintosh of toffee fame. It was not the most tidy of place, most of the enclosures were quite ramshackle, but the animals always seemed to be treated well. My main recollection was the smell and an old mangy lion.

Following its closure in the mid-eighties it was dismantled and the site used by Henshaws as a school/centre for the blind. The buildings are modern and attractive, plus they have a cafe and a sensory garden that is a pleasure to walk in. It's well worth a visit

Anonymous said...

Noyoka was convicted by Harrogate Magistrates Court for Gross Indecency with a nine year old boy in July 1983; for which he was fined £400.

Tim Dawe said...

I met Nick when i delivered some glass for one of his snake tanks when he lived in a flat in Syston (Leicestershire) I was fascinated by this man and used to visit him often. He had led an incredible life and done more than many could dream of. His health was not good at this time but his enthusiasm for his reptiles and love for the animal world was contagious. A great man who's story needs to told.

marisha chiverton said...

The picture of Nick was taken at Sandown zoo on the Isle of Wight.
He was my godfather

Simon Wilson said...

I am so pleased that somebody has set up this site. I remember Noyka and Simba very well indeed. Even though I know the Son of the man who was the former owner of Sandown Zoo up to the 70's, I was apalled at the state of the animals there and the small size of the enclosures. I can remember a small bear in a small cage shaped like a parrot's cage with a mound of its excrement piled up beside the cage! Several big cats had died at the zoo after only being there for a short while. Nyoka really loved his animals and had a superb rapport with them. I believe that Simba appeared in "Cleopatra" when the Burtons were starring in it. I can remember Nyoka having a coach which he had adapted to transport Simba to and from engagements. I also seem to remember that he was asked to leave Sandown Zoo after one of the zoo owners' Chichauchau's walked into Simba cage and he ate it. What else would we expect a lion to do? I believe that from Sandown Nyoka went to Knaresborough Zoo but he never owned Sandown Zoo. He struck me as a man who was fascinated by wild animals and did his best to look after them in the best possible way that he could.

Anonymous said...

I have that same postcard of Nyoka and Simba somewhere in my loft .I remember as a child he used to perform at Colchester zoo entering the animals cages, dressed only in a Tarzan style loincloth ,and play with the big cats.It was an incredible thing to see.I googled Nyoka and Simba to see if anyone else remembered seeing him.It has been interesting to read the comments as I always assumed the postcard was taken at Colchester.

John asling said...

Nick nyoka also had a lot to do with sherwood park zoo at hucknall if anyone has a postcard they are willing to part with I would love one as I run a small reptile club in Alfreton Derbyshire

Anonymous said...

i remember him taking a young lioness out for a walk through the woods on the other side of the river with two doberman dogs. no leads on any of them and just said stay still and will be alright as the lion came towards us.

Anonymous said...

Simba was buried in Knaresborough zoo when he died I've heard hundreds of stories about great uncle nyoka from my mum who used to stay with him and aunty Janet as a child and frequently visited Knaresborough zoo with them

Anonymous said...

I have just found my childhood post card signed by Nyoka at Sandown zoo. Must have been around 1968ish as a 7yr old totally in awe of Simba and Nyoka performing a show but especially remember when Simba decided to pee, soaking a lot of the audience but we where further back laughing. Found this site while researching Nyoka, great memories.

Dr. Finian Perth said...

I just found a photo of Nick Nyoka and Simba here online.
It brought the memories flooding back. In the very early sixties he was a friend of my parents. We know him due to another Lion Man named Norman Carr (Book and film "Return to the Wild", the story of two cubs brought up by him on the Luangua Valley reserve in northern Rhodesia". I was fortunate enough to have been allowed to stroke Simba on several occasions and I still have a photo of Dad, Mum, my sister and me with his reticulated python around us all !
Many people didn't know that he and Simba were in the film Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. He had to fight Simba in the arena but Simba refused to play until Nick was made up to look like someone else.
I remember his party trick was tearing the London A-Z phone book in half with his bare hands. Hid did this at my house and my father kept the two halves with pride.

Lindyloo said...

I knew Nick for many years he was going to move in and live with us in Kent.I have some good memories of him and photos of when he visited us .He died suddenly just as planning consent was passed for the extension we wanted for him to live in.

Anonymous said...

Similarly to the last comment, I've just come across a postcard signed by Nyoka at Sandown Zoo from a family holiday to Isle of Wight in 1966. I was aged 5 at the time so I don't remember much about it. But I do remember my Mum pointing the zoo keeper out as being quite famous at the time, so I presume she got the card signed then.

Lindyloo said...

I have personal letters from Nick and signed photos too.I have family photos of his visits to my home.I found on here someone making a documentary but can't access so if anyone is interested in my memories I am happy to talk.

Anonymous said...

I agree with previous comments that the stuffed lion currently on display in Wales does not resemble Simba's photographs much. However I remember seeing Simba ( stuffed) on display at Knaresborough Zoo and thinking at the time how poor the taxidermy quality appeared.
I remember Simba being on a base similar to the base the Wales lion is on and facing in the same direction.
One thing that would settle the matter for sure is that I have one of Simba's claws (with silver mount and hinged cap) with some of Simba's mane inside. Nick Nyoka kept this and had this made into a necklace when Simba died and he gave it to me following the zoo closure.
If it became an issue that warranted proof (at a cost) then DNA sampling on both would determine it.
I remember Nick selling Simba to an antique dealer along with one of his original circus animal wagons.

Simba was in poor condition back then and along with the poor quality taxidermy the Wales lion definitely has both of these.

Anonymous said...

Between 1976 when aged 10 and 1985 I regularly visited Nyoka and the zoo with my family and spent many hours with him; particularly in the reptile house while the rest of the family disappeared off to other attractions.

He had a wonderful but scary disregard for health & safety. On more than one occasion he would open up an off-exhibit vivarium housing some cobras he wanted to show me, pick them out by hand and casually return them. Without closing that door he would be opening another to pick out another of his snakes; the originals starting to make their way out, just prior to reaching the floor were gently lifted by his foot, picked up and placed back in again. I remember him telling me that even the most venomous of snakes had no inclination to bite if not frightened or attacked so staying calm was the best way to be with them.

I also recall suggesting to him that he put a lid on the baby rattlesnakes that were in an aquarium within the public part of the reptile house. He hadn't thought anybody would be stupid enough to put their hands in or try to pick any of them up! Several of the enclosures had large glass window doors held shut by padlocks. Few were well fitting and had ample room to get fingers or a small hand between the frame and either the doors or walls. Cassius the reticulated python appeared in several issues of the Guinness Book of Records and was certainly a massive snake.

Cleanliness was not one of his big issues. Long before the scientific community caught up he was adamant that a certain amount of mess and not being too thorough when cleaning out helped the animals survive and thrive. His successes with many different species of reptile and amphibian were testament to the fact that he really knew what he was talking about and understood the animals needs. To him, they came first and foremost. Well before any visitors. He had a massive population of Blue Tongued Skinks at a time when nobody else seemed able to breed them in captivity, was highly knowledgeable about python species and a real expert when it came to cobras. There were a pair of alligators who would come to their names being called but who'd also come to the glass whenever they heard Nyoka's voice.

The rest of the zoo really was a menagerie of all sorts of oddments. I suspect many of the animals arrived as what today we'd call 'rescues' from other zoos and private collections. Accommodation for the animals was poor even for that era but all of the animals were incredibly well cared for.

I remember the huge stuffed lion which I presume was Simba in one of the sheds. I don't think it was the same lion but I remember a male lion at the zoo with all the usual, Do Not Feed, This Animal Is Dangerous signs that when called would amble over to be petted, rubbed and played with. I presume it was either someones pet prior to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act requiring licences or ex-circus. That big male lion was so soppy... and had no teeth.

It was very sad when the anti-zoo lobby forced the closure but the amount of money that would have been required to bring it up to standard would have been way more than it could have recouped from visitor numbers. Although many animals were re-homed many were put down.

Other than the newspaper articles I don't know what happened re the report of child abuse. I hope it was a stress driven one-off. No excuse for that at all but over the years I was often alone when visiting and never anything improper. He was always a great mentor and fount of amazing stories about the animals he had worked with, circuses etc. He certainly knew how to embellish but I suspect the vast majority were true. Although already destined in that direction, much of what Nyoka taught me at Knaresbrough helped steer my views when I later became a professional zoologist specialising in herpetology (reptiles).