A report emerged earlier this week revealing that 500 animals have died in a zoo in Cumbria in a period of less than four years. The revelation has prompted MPs to call zoo inspectors to give evidence about the damning report and the conditions at South Lakes Safari zoo in Dalton-in-Furness.
The zoo is currently home to more than 1,500 animals, but the investigation revealed that 486 inhabitants had died due to a variety of causes including emaciation and hypothermia between December 2013 and September 2016, according to reports. Zoo inspectors have since recommended that the local authorities should refuse to renew the zoo’s licence, along with the zoo’s founder, David Gill, to be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act for allowing animals to suffer.
The investigation by government appointed inspectors found “overcrowding, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, lack of suitable animal husbandry and a lack of any sort of developed veterinary care” when they visited in January. The chair of the all-party parliamentary group on zoos and aquariums, Andrew Rosindell, is now calling on the government to launch a full inquiry into how the conditions were allowed to get so bad within the zoo without something being done earlier. He said, “I’d like to know what’s gone wrong here. We in this country have a very proud record of conservation and animal welfare in zoos and what we are seeing in this zoo goes against what happens generally across the country”, adding that he wants nationwide guidelines for zoo inspectors to abide by.
After the inspectors’ report was published, a spokeswoman for the Captive Animals Protection Society claimed that the zoo licensing system was failing to protect animals in its care, and accused local authorities of neglecting to punish zoos that fell below the required standards. The zoo was fined £255,000 last June for breaching health and safety rules, after the death of zookeeper Sarah McClay, who was mauled by a Sumatran tiger in 2013. Listed in the report were the deaths of two snow leopard cubs named Miska and Natasja, which were discovered partially eaten in their enclosure, as well as an African spurred tortoise who died after being electrocuted by electric fencing. In July 2016, the council rejected the application for Gill’s license renewal, claiming that he was “not a fit and suitable person” to manage the zoo. However, the law currently states that the existing license continues in force until the new application is processed or withdrawn.
Gill handed over management of the zoo to the chief executive, Karen Brewer, at the end of 2016, although inspectors did not believe that this was enough to change the conditions of the zoo. The report also claims that despite who was listed as managing the zoo, “[David Gill] continued to run the zoo, either directly or indirectly, with [Karen Brewer] being presented as the manager or CEO.”
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