- South Lakes Safari Zoo under fire after list of 486 animal deaths in FOUR YEARS is released
- Park has faced heavy criticism from members of the public about animal welfare concerns
- Founder of the zoo David Gill had his licence renewal denied and park will close unless he hands it over to another company
- Staff at Cumbria Zoo Company say they are doing everything they can to turn the park around
NEW staff at a zoo where one keeper and almost 500 animals have died in four years have promised to turn the park around.
South Lakes Safari Zoo, in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, went under fire in February this year after a harrowing list of animal deaths was revealed.
The tally of 486 cases included two leopards that had been eaten by other animals, a monkey carcass found behind a radiator and seven healthy lion cubs that were euthanised due to lack of space.
The zoo’s official Facebook page has been bombarded with 1-star reviews and complaints of animal abuse witnessed inside the park, such as a leopard that had chewed its paw off in distress, small enclosures and a penguin pen without any water.
Hannah Smith, 22, of Rampside, is an animal keeper at the zoo.
She is hoping members of the public can see they are trying their hardest to rebuild the reputation of the park.
She said: “We are working tirelessly to make sure the standards of the zoo are continuously improving. We’re coming in early and staying behind late to fit in extra improvements.
“I’m hoping that the public can recognise our efforts,” she added. “All we’re asking is that the public give us another chance. I promise we are doing everything physically possible to prove our words are being put into action.”
This not the first time the safari park has been hit with controversy. In 2013, zookeeper Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled to death by one of the Sumatran tigers after it escaped its enclosure.
The rare tiger was able to open one of the doors after the lock had broken due to a fault.
The animal then bit Ms McClay fatally on the neck and dragged her back to its pen whilst visitors were still in the park.
Founder of the zoo, David Gill, handed over responsibility of park to Cumbria Zoo Company towards the end of 2016 when concerns over his management techniques began to grow.
Following inspection, Barrow Borough Council’s licencing committee decided that closure of the park would go underway immediately due to animal welfare issues, reporting that conditions at the site were some of the worst they had seen in 60 years.
Mr. Gill had 28 days to appeal against the authorities decision to deny his permission to run the zoo on March 6th.
He submitted his formal appeal on the 30th March which means the park can remain open while his case is pending.
Staff at the recently formed Cumbria Zoo Company are hoping this gives them enough time to secure their own zoo licence which is due to be finalised in June, so that they can become the official licence-holders of the zoo and get the park back on track.
An ex-employee of the zoo, Steph Taylor, 22, of School Street, Barrow-in-Furness, thinks that the staff at the park will have a tough time turning the zoo around.
She said: “When I started working at the park it was a lot smaller so the animals were in smaller pens. I remember the giant tortoise’s enclosure was tiny and it used to climb underneath the electric fence every day and electrocute itself. It was horrible to see.
“It is shocking because news that comes from the zoo usually stays in the South Lakes but this time it’s spread nationally. The new staff are going to have a hard time coming back from this but I do think people will still visit, even if there is a reduction.”
Spider monkeys, jaguars and emus can be seen at South Lakes Safari Zoo.
Shocked and dismayed by the conditions of the park, Claire Lowrey, 24, a childcare officer from Newcastle, described her visit to the park as “rubbish”.
She said: “We could only see about three animals and there was one dead lying by the train track.
“My little sister said it was the worst zoo ever. We actually felt quite emotional when we left.”
Another visitor to the park, Kelby Jackson, 25, a sales assistant from Preston, said she was “appalled” to learn about the animal deaths.
She added: “It’s a disgrace how this zoo can mistreat or kill innocent animals.
“I’ve been visiting since I was little but it’s changed so much since then. When I went about two years ago, there was a giraffe that had a huge cut by its horns and clearly looked unhappy. Another giraffe was pacing up and down and twisting its neck with impulsion.”
Sarah Peters, 30, a beauty salon owner from Cheltenham, said she hopes the negativity surrounding the park “subsides”.
She said: “People shouldn’t judge the zoo from what they hear on the news.
“Until they have been to the zoo themselves and seen the way my daughter’s smile lights up when she sees the animals, then they can tell me it’s an awful place.”
Cumbria Zoo Company await Barrow Borough Council’s licensing committees decision on whether they will grant their licence.