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The so-called "worst zoo in the UK" where a keeper was mauled to death by a tiger and hundreds of animals have died is "still failing on basic safety standards," according to a new report.
South Lakes Safari Zoo in Lindal In Furness, Cumbria, on the southern edge of the Lake District National Park, was one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting 19.38 million visitors in 2018.
However, it has been riddled with problems for years and a new report has claimed to shed fresh light on even more, including animals clinging to heat lamps due to cold, giraffes with overgrown hooves, raw meat covered in flies and rats inside enclosures.
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International wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation delivered the damning report after an inspection on October 17. The organisation is now calling for the zoo to be closed.
In 2016 it was fined £255,000 for health and safety breaches after the death of zookeeper Sarah McClay, who was mauled by a Sumatran tiger in 2013.
The 24-year-old was pounced on in the keeper’s corridor of the tiger house.
One of the issues raised by Born Free was inadequate space being provided for animals, particularly rhinos who were "confined to tiny stalls which just allow them to turn around".
“Despite being a herd species, each zebra appears to be separated into an individual stall and potentially kept inside all day.
"The zebra may then be shut out overnight, including during winter, however no bedding or heating was observed in the outdoor shelter," the report continued.
One female giraffe was seen to have "extremely overgrown and curved hooves".
At least 52 guests fed a handful of carrots to two male giraffes, in a pay-to-feed set up "in contrast to natural dietary items such as leaves and stems," according to the organisation.
An Andean bear was pictured forlornly staring out of a small window, looking downcast. This, the org said, was evidence of zoochosis, when captive animals develop a form of psychosis due to lack of enrichment from toys and games.
But most jarring was a photo of a sloth atop a tortoise, jostling for space by a heat lamp, while a monkey was also pictured clinging to the metal covering on the heat source.
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The report states: “A number of primates were seen clinging to the mesh to get as close to heat lamps as possible. A sloth was seen clinging to mesh just inches above the ground to access a heat lamp intended for tortoises, who were also trying to access the lamp."
Raw meat was seen to be left in a bucket outside the tiger enclosure on the inside of the keeper gate, the report added.
Rats were also apparently observed in the raccoon and tortoise enclosures.
“In summary, it is our strong view that the zoo continues to fail to meet even basic standards of animal welfare and visitor safety in a number of respects," the report concluded.
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Born Free wrote to Barrow Borough Council to formally highlight their concerns observed during the visit. They say they will "work with the zoo to address" the matters raised.
But Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow and Furness, said Born Free has an "agenda" against the zoo.
"Born Free claim to ‘challenge the global zoo industry’ and that want to ‘phase out zoos’ – this is not to dispute their claims, but to recognise that they clearly come to this issue with an agenda," he said.
A Barrow Borough Council spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that the council received a report from Born Free in regards to the South Lakes Safari Zoo.
"The issues raised in their report are similar to reports recently received directly to the council. We take allegations of this nature seriously and will work with the Zoo to address them.
"Any enforcement matters will be reported at a licensing hearing, should that be necessary."
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