South Lakes Safari Zoo inspection highlights concerns

A rhino at South Lakes zoo
Image caption Rhino dung near a fence was a recent cause for concern

Fresh concerns have been raised about a zoo in Cumbria with a history of problems.

Inspectors found staff and the public were potentially at risk in some areas of South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness and there were also animal welfare and management issues.

It said that if improvements were not made its licence would not be renewed.

The zoo said it disagreed with the report's findings and would be referring the matter to its lawyers.

The inspection was carried out in November by representatives from Barrow Council, the animal health agency and a vet.

Their report noted that the zoo had a catalogue of special inspections directions of compliance over a number of years.

In 2014 it was fined for offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act after sacred ibis escaped.

'False and misleading'

Safety fears over the condition of aerial walkways were highlighted in December, and there was also concern that baboons could escape by scaling a pile of rhino dung.

This led to an announcement by the zoo that it would be closing temporarily, although this decision was later reversed.

Image caption The popular visitor attraction claims to be one of Europe's leading conservation zoo

The latest findings included: a higher than expected animal mortality rate, reports of people bitten by animals and concerns over management structure.

South Lakes Safari Zoo said in a statement: "We are really concerned the report makes broad-based claims, but doesn't contain any factual evidence to back them up.

"Nothing in the conditions which the inspectors have placed on us reflects these comments in any way.

"We have placed the report in the hands of our legal team ... and we will be making a full response to this false and misleading information.

"We are proud of our zoo and have had our best year ever."

Barrow Council will be considering the report at a meeting of its licensing committee on 23 February.

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