Belfast Zoo: Calls to close 'Victorian peep show'
There have been calls for Belfast Zoo to be shut down amid claims it is reminiscent of a "Victorian peep show" that is costing ratepayers £2m a year.
Keeping animals in isolation was cruel, said UUP councillor Chris McGimpsey and the Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty group.
They want the zoo replaced with a conservation area for NI's priority species.
Belfast City Council said no decision had been made on the zoo's future.
It indicated that Belfast Zoo has been losing about £2m a year for the past three years - with £1.8m of income generated set against £2.8m of expenditure and additional central support costs of about £1m.
"While the future of Belfast Zoo has been raised in council by individual members, no formal proposal of any kind has been presented or discussed, and therefore no decision on its future has been made," said the council.
Mr McGimpsey said that as well as the "dreadful cost" to ratepayers, "the welfare of the animals needs to be called into question".
"Belfast Zoo is like a Victorian peep show, with animals in inappropriate conditions in cages that are too small enduring a climate that is all wrong," he added.
"You take animals from Sub-Saharan Africa and stick them on the hill at Bellevue where they sit and shiver while we gawk at them through the bars."
Mr McGimpsey said the zoo should be replaced with an an animal conservation area for native breeds such as the Irish hare, species of Irish bat and the red squirrel.
"The zoo is inappropriate for this era and it is wrong that it continues," he said.
"The rate payers cannot afford to keep it and the welfare of the animals needs to be called into question."
The Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty group supported Mr McGimpsey's call.
"Cave Hill is no place for lions, elephants, giraffes and many of the 150 species that are currently incarcerated there," it said.
"It serves no benefit for the animals as most are not endangered and those that are are not there for conservation, as this requires a breed-to-release mechanism."
The group said it was calling on Belfast City Council "to stop wasting millions of pounds every year on a failed project that forces lives of suffering for the entertainment of the minority of people that are still entertained by animals in cages".