Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Trouble at the Zoo

7 February 2018

Categories: Homepage News, Zoo Check Campaign News

Born Free calls for overhaul of UK zoo licensing and inspections

‘It is the owners of the zoo and the local authority who must explain themselves’ – Will Travers OBE

Ahead of the documentary Trouble at the Zoo – a behind the scenes look at South Lakes Safari Zoo, in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria – which airs on BBC2 at 9pm tonight, international wildlife charity Born Free reiterates its call for an overhaul of the zoo licensing and inspection process in the UK.

Trouble at the Zoo reportedly reveals a number of alleged incidents at South Lakes following its takeover by a new management team last summer. The zoo’s former owner David Gill was refused a licence in March 2017 after a damning report by zoo inspectors revealed a catalogue of animal welfare concerns, including the death of nearly 500 animals over a four-year period.

Born Free Foundation President and Co-Founder, Will Travers OBE, said: “The alleged incidents revealed in tonight’s documentary of unreported deaths, animals being poisoned, the lack of participation in recognised captive breeding programmes and the feeding of animals with food that may not be fit for consumption indicate that the shocking troubles at South Lakes Safari Zoo, that brought it to the brink of closure a year ago, are not over.

“If confirmed, they call into question whether the revised leadership and management are up to the task and, importantly, whether the government's current zoo licensing regime is fit for purpose. All zoos receive their operating licence from the local authority in which they are located. The withdrawal of such a licence and the consequent closure of a zoo - with the loss of jobs and revenue to the local community - may represent a conflict of interest and make taking necessary action - such as withdrawing a zoo licence - by a local authority far harder. The question of what to do with the animals in the event of zoo closure - also a responsibility of the local authority - is likely to be a further disincentive to resolute but difficult decisions.

“As always, there are victims when things are allowed to go wrong. In this case the 486 animals who died between December 2013 and September 2016, but also the keepers who, in many cases, have tried their best under the circumstances. It is the owners of the zoo and the local authority who must explain themselves and accept the consequences of their action or inaction.”

Born Free has repeatedly called for the establishment of a full-time and centralised independent zoo inspectorate to ensure consistency in licensing and the inspection of zoos. For further information, see

Image: Giraffe with injury at South Lakes Safari Zoo 2017 © Born Free Foundation

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