Regarding our recent post re Cumbria zoo:
Today, 6/3/17 we have the news that we had hoped we would get:
Cumbrian zoo where almost 500 animals died is refused new licence.
Application by founder of South Lakes Safari zoo turned down after inspectors reported ‘obvious deficiencies’.
The founder of a zoo in Cumbria, where nearly 500 animals died in less than four years, has been refused a new licence to run it.
The chair of Barrow council’s licensing committee, Tony Callister, said the unanimous decision was made because councillors were not satisfied conservation matters referred to in the Zoo Licensing Act would be implemented.
Callister said the committee had taken into account Gill’s conviction under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 regarding the escape into the wild of a number of sacred ibis.
The committee heard inspectors had visited South Lakes Safari zoo in January and were “dismayed by the obvious deficiencies in the accommodation, the overcrowding and the lack of proper welfare and husbandry”.
If we really love animals, we should close all zoos now
They are the last of the Georgian cruelty shows, yet the public seems unmoved by the suffering they cause
Last week, a damning report on conditions at the tourist attraction in Dalton-in-Furness, which is home to more than 1,500 animals, found 486 inhabitants died of causes including emaciation and hypothermia between December 2013 and September 2016.
Inspectors recommended the local authority refuse to renew the zoo’s licence and that Gill, who founded the zoo in 1994, be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act for allowing animals to suffer.
The inspectors, who are appointed by the government, found “overcrowding, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, lack of suitable animal husbandry and a lack of any sort of developed veterinary care” when they visited.
The zoo was awarded a six-year licence in June 2010 and the council received Gill’s application for renewal in January 2016. In July 2016 the council rejected the application, agreeing with inspectors that Gill was “not a fit and suitable person” to manage the zoo.
But the law dictates that if the licensee reapplies for a new licence, the existing licence continues to apply until the application has been processed or withdrawn. Although Gill’s licence has now been terminated, the zoo will stay open until a decision is made this summer on a licence application by Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd, which now runs the attraction.
The zoo was fined £255,000 last June for health and safety breaches after the death of keeper Sarah McClay, 24, who was mauled by a Sumatran tiger in 2013. Gill was criticised for saying McClay died because she failed to follow the correct procedures.
Among a catalogue of animal deaths in the report were those of two snow leopard cubs named Miska and Natasja, who were discovered partially eaten in their enclosure. An African spurred tortoise named Goliath died after being electrocuted by electric fencing, and the decomposing body of a squirrel monkey was discovered behind a radiator.
Following the publication of the inspectors’ report, a spokeswoman for the Captive Animals’ Protection Society said the zoo licensing system was failing to protect animals and accused local authorities of neglecting to punish zoos that fell below required standards.
The charity has called for a centralised body to monitor zoo standards, to replace the current system where local authorities are responsible for organising inspections.
Gill formally handed over management of the zoo to Cumbria Zoo Company and its chief executive, Karen Brewer, in January. The business is leasing the zoo for six months from Gill, whose lawyer said he had “stepped away from all trading and management activities connected with the zoo”.
Cumbria Zoo Company is in the process of purchasing South Lakes Safari Zoo Ltd, the former operating company, from owner Gill.
Inspectors remained unconvinced that this transfer of power was enough to change conditions, accusing Gill of being “desperate to continue to maintain control over the zoo in one form or another”.
“Between November and July 2015, nine different management teams have been proposed to the [local authority] to manage the zoo,” the report reads.
“But there has always been a single common denominator behind all these changes; [David Gill] continued to run the zoo, either directly or indirectly, with [Karen Brewer] being presented as the manager or CEO.”
In a response to an inspectors’ report last year, Brewer defended Gill against what she described as unwarranted personal attacks. “What perhaps is hard to perceive for the inspectors, and for myself and the management to portray, is the synergistic relationship between Safari Zoo and David Gill,” she wrote.
“I am confident in my own position to manage the zoo without David here on a regular basis, but we do need his ideas and his contribution in this zoo as it is vital to keep its heart alive.”
A spokesperson for the Captive Animals Society criticised the change of management as inadequate. “Four out of eight of the new directors of Cumbria Zoo Ltd are past directors or key managers at South Lakes Safari Zoo,” it said.
“The CEO of Cumbria Zoo, Karen Brewer, has been present at South Lakes Safari zoo inspections as far back as 2011. At these inspections, inspectors have raised varying degrees of animal welfare concerns and deaths.”
And from the BBC:
South Lakes Safari Zoo: Council refuses owner licence
The owner of a zoo criticised over animal welfare concerns and where a keeper was killed by a tiger has lost his bid to renew his licence.
David Gill’s claim for a licence to run South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness was unanimously refused by Barrow councillors.
He now has 28 days to appeal. In February, a report found 486 animals had died there in four years.
Inspectors had previously recommended new management should be found.
In 2013, keeper Sarah McClay, from Glasgow, was mauled to death by a tiger and the zoo was later fined £297,500 for health and safety breaches.
Will the zoo close?
According to the council’s report, the zoo should close to the public “upon refusal of the licence”.
However, the closure is delayed if an appeal is made, which Mr Gill has 28 days to lodge.
He launched his bid for a fresh licence after councillors previously rejected his claim to renew the licence he was originally granted in 1994.
Mr Gill has handed management of South Lakes over to the Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd and said he plans to sell the zoo to that group as well.
The zoo company’s application for a licence to run the zoo is yet to be heard.
After the hearing, Ms McClay’s boyfriend David Shaw said he was “satisfied” with the council’s decision and said he hoped Mr Gill would step aside so Cumbria Zoo Company would “prove they can operate in a safe way”.
Mr Gill did not attend the hearing at Barrow Town Hall and councillors rejected an appeal from his solicitor Steve Walker to postpone the meeting.
Mr Walker said his client no longer wanted to run the zoo, which houses 1,500 animals including tigers, giraffes and rare birds, but did not want to see it close before the new company had a licence approved.
Cumbria Police raised concerns that only three zoo staff members held firearms certificates in the event of an animal escaping.
Following a site visit in January, government-appointment inspectors said they were “dismayed by the obvious deficiencies in the accommodation, the overcrowding and the lack of proper welfare and husbandry”.
Deaths included two rare snow leopards found partially eaten and seven “healthy lion cubs euthanised because the zoo did not have space to house them”.
The inspectors also found cold animals in the unheated Africa House, which was so badly designed, its sloped yard was finished with smooth instead of rough concrete, causing a giraffe to slip to its death.
‘Bound to get bitten’
Inspectors also raised concerns about animals fighting each other, uncontrolled breeding of lemurs and a heightened risk of public safety.
Mr Gill said animals in the wild “get injured when fighting” and “people are bound to get bitten occasionally”, the report said.
The report to the council’s licensing committee also criticised the zoo’s duty of care to its staff.
One example given was that of workers wanting to access the Andean bear building had to crawl through the doors used by the animals.
The zoo was also previously fined £42,500 after a keeper fell from a ladder while preparing to feed big cats in July 2014.
Mr Gill has also been convicted over the escape of a number of sacred ibis.
The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (Caps), which also inspected South Lakes, said the zoo was one of the worst it had seen.
Katie Richards, from charity Born Free, said she had visited the zoo on Sunday and had been able to take part in feeding a jaguar using a pair of tongs through a cage.
She said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked by how close you could get to those animals with a pair of tongs.
“The problem here and the issue is both animal welfare and public safety and I felt very unsafe in that situation.”
In a letter to the committee, Mr Gill’s representatives said he was “absolutely committed to leaving the zoo” and transferring it to the new company.