South Lakes Safari Zoo: Report shows hundreds of animal deaths

Image caption,
Recent inspections have revealed poor veterinary care, uncontrolled breeding and overcrowding

Almost 500 animals have died in three years at a zoo where a keeper was mauled to death by a tiger, a report has said.

South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness opened in 1994 and now houses more than 1,500 animals, including tigers, giraffes and rare birds.

Barrow Council is considering whether to grant the site a new zoo licence.

Owner David Gill has "stepped away from all trading and management activities", a spokesperson said.

The zoo was fined £297,500 for health and safety breaches when keeper Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled to death by a tiger in 2013.

Overweight giraffe

Recent inspections have revealed poor veterinary care, uncontrolled breeding and overcrowding.

A report compiled by the local authority shows that between December 2013 and last September, 486 animals died.

They included two snow leopards that were found partially eaten, a pair of squirrel monkeys diagnosed with septicaemia and a giraffe which a post-mortem examination showed was overweight.

Previous inspections called for improvements to be made at the zoo, focusing on the safety of staff, the visiting public and the animals.

But earlier this year government inspectors said any progress had been "seriously undermined" by "deplorable" welfare standards.

Image source, Stephen McClay
Image caption,
Sarah McClay was mauled to death by a tiger in 2013

Owner David Gill has faced criticism for his "intrusive" style, with inspectors recommending the zoo's licence should not be reissued until new management was in place.

A spokesman for Mr Gill said: "The current arrangement sees the entire zoo site leased to Cumbria Zoo Company Limited under a six-month lease.

"Mr Gill remains the licence holder, but otherwise has stepped away from all trading and management activities connected with the zoo."

He has since brought in a new management company to oversee the zoo's operation.

However, the council is being recommended to refuse the licence renewal, which could see the zoo close.

A spokeswoman for the charity Captive Animals' Protection Society (Caps), which has conducted its own inspection visits, said: "The conduct of this zoo has been some of the worst we have seen in many years and feel that a cause for closure is strong.

"We have urged the council to take the opportunity to prevent more animal suffering at this zoo."

Barrow councillors will make a decision on the new application on 6 March.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
David Gill has run South Lakes Safari Zoo since 1994

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