South Lakes Safari Zoo take-over impresses inspectors

Baby Kordofan giraffe Image copyright Cumbria Zoo Company
Image caption A rare baby Kordofan giraffe was born at the zoo in March

Improvements at a zoo criticised over animal welfare and safety have "impressed and highly encouraged" inspectors.

Their latest report said there had been a "change of culture" since South Lakes Safari Zoo was taken over in January by a company formed by staff.

Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd (CZCL) is applying for a licence after owner David Gill was refused one in February.

Inspectors have recommended Barrow Council approves CZCL's application.

Mr Gill has lodged an appeal against his licence refusal which means the attraction can stay open in the meantime.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Gill has said he wants nothing more to do with the running of the zoo

In 2013, keeper Sarah McClay was mauled to death by a tiger and the zoo was subsequently fined £297,500 for health and safety breaches.

A council report in February revealed 486 animals had died there in four years and criticised Mr Gill's management style.

CZCL has since leased the zoo from Mr Gill and intends to run it independently from him, government appointed inspectors said.

The latest report praised the level of staff "engagement, dedication and enthusiasm and ambitious plans to move forward now that the owner [or] previous director is no longer involved".

The zoo in Dalton-in-Furness currently houses 1,500 animals including tigers, giraffes and rare birds.

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