Born Free raises fresh concerns about South Lakes Safari Zoo

Born Free has written again to Barrow Council after receiving further public concerns following a firework display at South Lakes Safari Zoo.

On 5th November, South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria hosted its ‘Bonfire Night Bonanza’ which advertised the use of ‘bangless’ fireworks within the zoo grounds. 

However, following the event, Born Free was contacted by several attendees who highlighted their concerns that a number of the fireworks were not silent and made comparible noise to regular fireworks. Further research has revealed concerns being voiced on social media and review sites. Born Free has also seen footage from the event, which appears to show fireworks being let off in the zoo making considerable noise, and in close proximity to the zoo’s Africa House, housing its giraffe, zebra and rhino. These are all animals which are easily startled.

The negative impact that fireworks have on animals is a long-standing issue and has for many years been highlighted by Born Free and other animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. In recent years a number of animal deaths in zoos across the world have been blamed on fireworks. In 2020, a young zebra at Noah’s Ark Zoo in Somerset died after being startled by fireworks and running into a fence. A similar incident occurred in 2019, at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand, leading to the death of an antelope. Auckland Zoo stated a wallaby joey died after its mother ejected it from her pouch when startled by the pyrotechnics being set off in the area around the zoo.

Concerningly, the Safari Zoo in Cumbria is advertising a similar festive event which will also feature ‘bangless’ fireworks.

Even when fireworks are silent, the visual aspects can still be extremely stressful for animals at the zoo and those within the surrounding area.

Barrow Council is due to send inspectors to the zoo in November to investigate longstanding allegations of poor animal welfare and neglect. Born Free is urging the Council to include consideration of the impacts of the use of fireworks at the zoo. Specifically, inspectors should investigate what, if any, measures were in place to ensure the welfare of the animals during the firework display, and whether the noise and disturbance of fireworks were compatible with the legal requirement for the zoo to protect their animals from fear and distress. Born Free is urging the zoo management to reconsider their use at the upcoming festive event.

Chris Lewis, Captivity Research Officer, stated, “Although the zoo intended to use silent fireworks, it must be questioned why a facility whose main objective should be to ensure the welfare of the animals in their care would jeopardise that through unnecessary actions. The evidence and testimony we have received that suggest some of the fireworks were far from silent only compounds the issue further, and calls into question the judgement of zoo management and the zoo’s ethics committee.”