Western Daily Press - - Front Page - KRISHAN DAVIS krishan.davis@reach­

AMUM was left “hor­ri­fied” af­ter she and her chil­dren wit­nessed meerkats at­tack­ing and ‘eat­ing’ a squir­rel that fell into their en­clo­sure at Bris­tol Zoo Gar­dens.

Mother-of-two Hol­lye Kirk­caldy was vis­it­ing the zoo with her chil­dren on Mon­day when the in­ci­dent hap­pened.

A squir­rel fell from the trees above into the meerkat en­clo­sure at the at­trac­tion in Clifton.

Par­ents and chil­dren then watched on as the meerkats at­tacked and at­tempted to eat the grey squir­rel.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic alerted nearby zoo groundskeep­ers, but as they were not zookeep­ers they did not have ac­cess to the pen and could only stand by and watch.

They ra­dioed the zookeep­ers and the squir­rel was res­cued from the jaws of the meerkats but died later.

Along­side a pic­ture of the staff look­ing on, Mrs Kirk­caldy tweeted: “Keep­ers lined up to watch a squir­rel get at­tacked and eaten by the meerkats in­stead of do­ing some­thing to help when alerted by pub­lic.

“Chil­dren forced to watch squir­rel die slowly in pain. Is that pol­icy?!”

A spokesper­son for the zoo de­nied that any­one was ‘forced’ to watch and sug­gested vis­i­tors could have moved on when the meerkats acted on their nat­u­ral in­stincts.

A spokesper­son for Bris­tol Zoo Gar­dens said: “Keep­ers were quickly alerted and soon re­moved the squir­rel and took it to our vets, but it sadly died.”

Much of the com­ment on so­cial me­dia yes­ter­day was sym­pa­thetic with the zoo.

One wrote: “I’m sure the meerkats would have been hor­ri­fied to see a child eat­ing a ham sand­wich in front of them too.

“One of the pri­mary pur­poses of a zoo is to al­low peo­ple to learn and in­ter­act with an­i­mals they would never usu­ally get the chance to see in an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lows the an­i­mal to ex­press it’s nat­u­ral in­stincts and be­hav­iors as much as pos­si­ble.

“Meerkats are car­niv­o­rous and have the same in­stinct to hunt as any other car­ni­vore.

“Now, it is pos­si­ble that wit­ness­ing un­ex­pected nat­u­ral pre­da­tion might be trau­matic for younger chil­dren but once you have paid your en­try fee to the zoo you are free to roam the gar­dens as you wish. Use your judg­ment as a par­ent. If it would dis­turb your chil­dren, then go to an­other ex­hibit and come back later.

“If your chil­dren are old enough to un­der­stand, then stay. Your choice. You are cer­tainly not ‘forced’ to ob­serve any­thing at the zoo.’’

A mum com­plained af­ter meerkats at­tacked a squir­rel that fell in their en­clo­sure at Bris­tol Zoo

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