SHAME­FUL TRUTH ABOUT OUR ZOOS

Daily Mail - - News - by Glen Keogh Are you con­cerned about the wel­fare of an­i­mals at a zoo? Email zoos@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

AP­PALLING con­di­tions in zoos across Bri­tain can to­day be laid bare by the Mail.

Just two days af­ter a keeper was mauled to death by a tiger at a wildlife park in Cam­bridgeshire, a damn­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­veals se­ri­ous fail­ings over safety, se­cu­rity and an­i­mal wel­fare.

Us­ing free­dom of in­for­ma­tion laws, we were able to ob­tain al­most 170 zoo in­spec­tion re­ports from lo­cal authorities across Eng­land and Wales.

At least 24 at­trac­tions ap­peared to have se­ri­ous is­sues, while at least a fur­ther 17 were told they could only con­tinue op­er­at­ing if they ad­hered to lengthy lists of con­di­tions. Yet only one wildlife park was re­fused a li­cence. Ex­perts last night said the Mail had un­cov­ered ‘sig­nif­i­cant an­i­mal wel­fare con­cerns’, while MPs called for an ur­gent re­view of li­cens­ing rules.

There were also calls for the cre­ation of a national zoo in­spec­torate to en­sure ba­sic stan­dards of care and safety.

The Mail’s find­ings come af­ter 33-yearold Rosa King died at Hamer­ton Zoo in Cam­bridgeshire on Mon­day.

Three weeks ago, South Lakes Sa­fari

‘Six es­capes in one year’

Zoo in Cum­bria was granted a li­cence even though al­most 500 an­i­mals died there in un­der four years and a keeper was killed by a tiger in 2013.

Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion to­day re­veals a string of fail­ings, with some zoos keep­ing an­i­mals in such shoddy en­clo­sures that they are reg­u­larly es­cap­ing. At one park, chimps died when their en­clo­sure was ac­ci­den­tally over­heated, while at a driv­ethrough sa­fari pri­mates tested pos­i­tive for tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

The shock­ing con­di­tions were dis­closed by in­spec­tion re­ports re­quested from ev­ery coun­cil in Eng­land and Wales, cov­er­ing around 230 zoos in to­tal. Cur­rently, there is no govern­ment over­sight of wildlife parks. Zoos are only for­mally inspected by lo­cal authorities ev­ery three to four years fol­lowed by an­nual vis­its. These can be by en­vi­ron­men­tal health of­fi­cers with no an­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ence. There find­ings are not rou­tinely pub­lished.

Re­ports re­vealed how se­cu­rity lapses ex­posed the pub­lic to danger. As re­cently as Jan­uary, a fe­male orang-utan es­caped from her en­clo­sure at Ch­ester Zoo – a year af­ter four oth­ers es­caped from the same area.

For­merly a bird sanc­tu­ary, Lin­colnshire Wildlife Park drew com­plaints from res­i­dents when it an­nounced two years ago it would start keep­ing tigers – de­spite fears there was no perime­ter fence.

A 2015 in­spec­tion re­port raised con­cerns that no staff had ex­pe­ri­ence look­ing af­ter large mam­mals – let alone big cats – and there were no weapons on­site should they es­cape.

But the an­i­mals ar­rived re­gard­less. The at­trac­tion has since built an ap­pro­pri­ate en­clo­sure hous­ing 11 Ben­gal tigers.

In Kent, there were six es­capes by macaques at Howletts Wild An­i­mal Park – one in 2013 and five last year. In 2009, a pack of wild hunt­ing dogs went miss­ing and a tiger was shot dead in 2001 af­ter break­ing free from its en­clo­sure.

A re­port into Woburn Sa­fari Park in Bed­ford­shire re­vealed that a drive-through en­clo­sure for Bar­bary macaques was kept open af­ter the pri­mates tested pos­i­tive for a strain of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

Con­cerns were raised anony­mously to coun­cil chiefs by em­ploy­ees, who said they feared they would be dis­missed if they com­plained to zoo bosses. The at­trac­tion said visi­tors were not at risk of in­fec­tion.

Staff also re­vealed how a pea­cock that was quar­an­tined be­cause of bird flu died of starva- tion when staff for­got to check on it. It was later found par­tially eaten by rats. A Bar­bary macaque that es­caped three times in one day end­ing up near a pub­lic foot­path where, ac­cord­ing to a whistle­blower, it posed a ‘danger to hu­man life’.

Pon­derosa Rural Therapeutic Cen­tre in Heck­mond­wicke, York­shire, used to house farm an­i­mals but ex­panded to in­clude lemurs, rein­deer and par­rots. Re­ports re­vealed dozens of large exotic an­i­mals in­clud­ing a rain­bow boa con­stric­tor and a Mex­i­can black king snake died last year in un­ex­plained cir­cum­stances. Rein­deers cov­ered in sores were left in kneedeep mud and stones were used to keep en­clo­sures shut.

The RSPCA and mem­bers of the pub­lic lodged 11 com­plaints in less than three years, but it con­tin­ues to op­er­ate. At Hoo Farm An­i­mal King­dom in Telford, Shrop­shire, a macaw la­belled ‘anti-so­cial’ was locked in a shed and a wal­laby and its young were ‘loose in un­ex­plained cir­cum­stances’ dur­ing an in­spec­tion.

The park was given 46 con­di­tions to im­prove but was al­lowed to con­tinue op­er­at­ing.

Chris Draper of the wildlife char­ity Born Free, said: ‘The Daily Mail has pulled to­gether a shock­ing list of is­sues cov­er­ing sig­nif­i­cant an­i­mal wel­fare con­cerns, ac­ci­dents and hu­man safety is­sues. It makes for de­press­ing read­ing. Our sus­pi­cion is that sim­i­lar prob­lems are wide­spread and un­der-re­ported.

‘We need a ro­bust sys­tem of li­cens­ing and in­spec­tion of zoos - as a min­i­mum – to try to pre­vent such ap­palling in­ci­dents from oc­cur­ring in the fu­ture.’

John Wood­cock, the Labour can­di­date for Barrow and Fur­ness, said: ‘There needs to be an ur­gent par­lia­men­tary de­bate on what is a shock­ingly in­ad­e­quate zoo li­cens­ing regime in this coun­try.

‘The atroc­i­ties at South Lakes and now Hamer­ton have high­lighted the need for a national level in­spec­torate to re­place the lo­cal vested in­ter­ests which cur­rently ex­ist.

‘It beg­gars be­lief that such ma­jor en­ter­prises which ac­count for

‘Run in such an am­a­teur­ish fash­ion’

many thou­sands of an­i­mals are run in such an am­a­teur­ish fash­ion.’ Lib­eral Demo­crat en­vi­ron­ment spokesman Kate Parminter called for the in­tro­duc­tion of min­i­mum stan­dards to pro­tect staff and an­i­mals.

The Lo­cal Govern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion said coun­cils had the power to re­voke li­cences where ‘strict con­di­tions are not be­ing met’. They re­fused to com­ment di­rectly on the Mail’s rev­e­la­tions. Dr Ros Clubb, of the RSPCA’s wildlife depart­ment, added: ‘Clearly there are se­ri­ous wel­fare is­sues in the ex­am­ples ex­posed by the Mail. The zoo li­cens­ing sys­tem needs to be ur­gently ad­dressed.’

Steven Cook, owner of Pon­derosa Rural Therapeutic Cen­tre, said: ‘We did have quite a bad re­port in 2015 but since then we have had a com­plete change of man­age­ment and re­fur­bish­ments have taken place.’

Will Dor­rell, man­ager at Hoo Farm, said the macaw was now out­side and the wal­laby had es­caped be­cause of a vis­i­tor hold­ing a door open. Surrey’s Chess­ing­ton World of Ad­ven­tures, where of­fi­cials recorded con­cerns about a per­form­ing par­rot, said it ad­heres to strict codes of prac­tice to pro­tect its an­i­mals. A spokesman said it is still wait­ing for the lo­cal author­ity to sup­ply it with a list of con­di­tions fol­low­ing its in­spec­tion in Septem­ber, but ‘as rep­utable zoo, we have al­ready acted on these to guar­an­tee op­ti­mum care for our an­i­mals’.

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