LONDON: A UK zoo is facing closure and its owner prosecution after nearly 500 of its animals died of poor nutrition, cramped conditions and hypothermia over four years, it emerged Wednesday.
A damning report into the South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria, northwest England, found that 486 animals had died in the past four years, putting most of the blame on its owner David Gill.
The zoo had over 1,600 animals in 2016.
Describing the conditions as “appalling”, inspectors reported finding poor levels of veterinary care, cleanliness and pest control, as well as inadequate food.
“The conditions that these animals are being held in, is quite frankly appalling, and has led directly to the death of a number of them,” they wrote in the report.
They recommended Gill be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act.
In 2016, 123 animals died including a West African giraffe which was euthanised a day after collapsing.
Post-mortem images raised concerns over nutrition.
A red kangaroo also died following a head trauma and six lion cubs were euthanised because the facility was not big enough to house them.
The report notes they were “healthy cubs and nothing wrong with them”.
An African spurred tortoise was electrocuted on an electric fence, while a leopard tortoise died from cold.
‘This zoo has failed’
Keepers told the inspecting team they had been informed to dispose of the animals’ bodies and not tell anyone about them.
Inspectors also flagged the owner’s poor duty-of-care towards its staff.
It was fined £255,000 ($316,000, 299,500 euros) last June for health and safety reasons following the 2013 death of one of its zookeepers, Sarah McClay.
She was mauled by a Sumatran tiger.
Gill is currently applying for a fresh licence for the zoo after the local council, Barrow and Furness, rejected his application for an extension of his previous licence back in July 2016.
Applying for a new licence allows the zoo to remain open until the application is processed.
Inspectors are recommending the council reject his application and close the zoo stating that the standards maintained by Gill “fall far below the standards required in a modern zoo”.
The animal welfare charity Captive Animals’ Protection Society applauded the recommendation.
“We feel that the many instances of suffering and unnecessary deaths of animals go to show that this zoo has failed and will continue to fail the animals in their care,” it said in a statement.