Anger over slay­ing of Lil­leth, the lynx on the loose

Own­ers and pub­lic out­raged af­ter wild cat is shot by coun­cil ‘fol­low­ing un­nec­es­sary pro­to­col’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Vic­to­ria Ward

OWN­ERS of an an­i­mal park have pledged to fight for jus­tice af­ter their miss­ing Eurasian lynx was shot dead by a pro­fes­sional game hunter on the or­ders of the lo­cal coun­cil.

Lil­leth, an 18-month-old lynx, about twice the size of a do­mes­tic cat, escaped from Borth Wild An­i­mal King­dom, near Aberys­t­wyth, by leap­ing over an elec­tric fence on Oct 29.

A po­lice he­li­copter with ther­mal imag­ing tech­nol­ogy, baited traps and heat-seek­ing drones were de­ployed in a hunt to catch the wild­cat.

Un­til a few days ago, Lil­leth was be­lieved to have re­mained within the zoo’s perime­ter fence but on Thurs­day, it was spot­ted asleep un­der a car­a­van in a hol­i­day park, closed for the win­ter sea­son.

Ceredi­gion County Coun­cil de­clared that the risk to the lo­cal com­mu­nity had “in­creased from mod­er­ate to se­vere” and that as it had strayed into a pop­u­lated area, it was nec­es­sary to act de­ci­sively and “hu­manely de­stroy” the an­i­mal.

Tracy Tweedy, 47, co-owner of Borth Wild An­i­mal King­dom, said: “We in no way agreed to or par­tic­i­pated in the shoot­ing of our baby Lynx,” she said. “We are truly dev­as­tated and out­raged that this hap­pened.”

Mrs Tweedy sug­gested the shoot­ing could eas­ily have been avoided had the coun­cil not in­sisted on fol­low­ing un­nec­es­sary pro­to­col.

“The car­a­van was boarded in on three sides with deck­ing and all we had to do was sling a net across the back and we would have had her trapped,” she said, “Un­for­tu­nately, one of the of­fi­cials in­sisted that he needed to pho­to­graph her and make a pos­i­tive ID be­fore we were al­lowed close.

“He slipped and fell go­ing up the bank which star­tled her caus­ing her to run past him and off across the fields.”

Mrs Tweedy and her hus­band, Dean, who took over the zoo in May, re­ceived a late-night call on Fri­day in­form­ing them that the lynx, worth around £5,000, was dead.

“They man­aged to lo­cate and shoot her within 24 hours so why didn’t they do that at the very be­gin­ning and just tran­quil­lise her?” Mrs Tweedy asked.

“You do not get to shoot a cat for no rea­son.

“She was no threat to any­one. It should never have hap­pened and we will fight them on it ev­ery step of the way.”

An­i­mal rights cam­paign­ers, the pub­lic and lo­cal coun­cil­lors have ques­tioned why Lil­leth had not been shot with a tran­quil­liser dart. Dr Paul O’Donoghue, di­rec­tor and sci­en­tific ad­viser for the UK Lynx Trust, crit­i­cised the park for fail­ing to spot that Lil­leth was miss­ing for up to six days and for keep­ing five lynx in the same en­clo­sure, which he claimed had led to fight­ing within the group and pres­sure which he blamed for the es­cape.

He said the coun­cil had han­dled the en­tire in­ci­dent “very badly” and also ac­cused the Na­tional Sheep As­so­ci­a­tion of “scare­mon­ger­ing” by pub­li­cis­ing what he deemed wildly ex­ag­ger­ated and un­founded claims that the lynx had killed sev­eral lo­cal sheep.

Aberys­t­wyth cen­tral coun­cil­lor Ceredig Davies said that while he was not party to the de­ci­sion to kill the an­i­mal, the au­thor­ity must take some re­spon­si­bil­ity and he ex­pected a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

An­drew Ven­ables, the marks­man who killed Lil­leth, claimed that its fate was in­evitable given the zoo’s fail­ure to catch it, which he branded a “farce”. He said he had no op­tion but to shoot the lynx be­cause tran­quil­liser darts take 15 min­utes to take ef­fect, mean­ing it could run away.

“The an­i­mal was found in a car­a­van park, where tourism is vi­tal, and the pos­si­bil­ity of a dart­ing re­sponse was never ex­plored,” he said. “It was fur­ther com­pli­cated by the dark, since it was a night-time op­er­a­tion.”

The an­i­mal park, which has been closed since Lil­leth’s dis­ap­pear­ance was first dis­cov­ered, has been told to ad­dress safety points and will be in­spected by the coun­cil later this month be­fore it is al­lowed to re­open.

‘You do not get to shoot a cat for no rea­son. She was no threat to any­one. It should never have hap­pened and we will fight them.’

“They man­aged to lo­cate and shoot her within 24 hours so why didn’t they do that at the very be­gin­ning?’

Park co-owner Dean Tweedy with keeper Ieuan How­ells dur­ing the search for Lil­leth

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