Anger over slaying of Lilleth, the lynx on the loose
Owners and public outraged after wild cat is shot by council ‘following unnecessary protocol’
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