A shockingly depraved zoo near the Lake District, where almost 500 animals and one keeper have died under suspect circumstances in under four years, has been granted a new license.
South Lakes Safari Zoo, owned by the notorious David Gill, has been thrust into the media spotlight for a seemingly endless list of dubious deaths and activities.
The troubled tourist attraction was refused a renewal of its license in March after inspectors raised concerns about Gill, the BBC reports.
However Barrow Council has now granted Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd (CZCL) a license because the inspection team were ‘highly encouraged’ by improvements made since the management takeover.
The Cumbria zoo, which has been dubbed the worst in Britain, has been managed by the CZCL since January and they now run the zoo.
The Cumbria Zoo Company was formed in 2016 with the purpose of taking over South Lakes Safari Zoo and gave the notice of their intention to apply for a zoo licence.
On their Facebook page, CZCL wrote:
We are passionate about our animals and about ensuring a culture of care and love, meeting their needs to showcase our animals and allowing them to engage with visitors, whilst being valued and respected.
Cumbria Zoo is thoroughly committed to delivering high standards of animal welfare for the animals in our care and others impacted by our conservation activities.
We have a global approach to meeting our animal welfare needs, focusing on the physical needs of the individual animals as well as their psychological requirements.
We aspire to the model of the ‘five domains’, aspiring to meet all of the requirements our animals need to have optimal quality of life.
The 50-acre zoo has been the site of hundreds of atrocities including when 31 of the zoo’s lemurs died in a fire after an electric heater malfunctioned.
In 2013, a 24-year-old zoo keeper, Sarah McClay, was mauled to death by a Sumatran tiger after it walked through an open door where she was working, dragging her by her neck into its den.
The zoo pleaded guilty to breaches of Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and was fined £255,000, though Gill was acquitted of negligence.
Among the 486 deaths mentioned in a report, were a decomposing squirrel monkey found behind a radiator, a jaguar that had to be put down after chewing off its paw, the bodies of snow leopards Miska and Natasja discovered partly eaten, and a red ruffed lemur who escaped into the tiger enclosure and was eaten.
Other fatalities included Goliath the tortoise who was electrocuted by wire fencing, two giraffes (one of suspected E-coli and the other after a fatal fall on concrete), and seven healthy baby lions that were put down five days after they were born which has been labelled as ‘management euthanasia’.
In addition to the death of a their keeper, the zoo had to pay out £42,500 when a keeper fell from a ladder while preparing to feed tigers in 2014.
The Daily Mail also reports allegations made against Gill, 55, suggesting he has made £300,000 by selling buffalo to hunters as well as deer to a ranch in Australia for shooting after he could not afford to feed the animals.
In 2004, the zoo was raided by police before going into administration with debt of almost £2 million.
Maddy Taylor, from Captive Animals’ Protection Society, said they were ‘disappointed’ councilors were being recommended to grant a four year zoo licence to CZCL, describing their improvements as ‘too little too late’.
Though not managing the zoo at all, Gill lives a short distance away on a plot of land only five acres smaller than the zoo itself so there are worries that he will have influence over its running.
The public have expressed outrage as such an evidently harmful environment is being allowed to continue, while others are in favour of giving the new management a chance.