Safari Cumbria Zoo inspection scheduled after welfare concerns raised

A giraffe nibbles leaves

Born Free said it discovered animal welfare issues, but the zoo has denied all allegations

Inspectors will visit a zoo after an animal rights group raised welfare concerns.

Born Free, which campaigns to keep animals in the wild, said it found trouble at Safari Zoo Cumbria.

Zoo bosses said they denied all the allegations and said Born Free’s “inaccurate” assessment was based on “assumptions”.

Barrow council and a government zoo inspector will visit the park, a council spokesman said.

The zoo has had a checkered past with fines imposed after a keeper was killed by a tiger in 2013, but has been under new management since 2017.

Born Free said its representatives visited the zoo in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, on October 17 after receiving “several disturbing public reports”.

They said they saw particular problems in the zoo’s African area, including:

  • A female giraffe is believed to have “extremely” overgrown and curved hooves

  • A lack of “navigating provisions” such as branches and leaves for giraffes with too much emphasis on visitors feeding the animals

  • Rhinos and zebras don’t spend enough time outdoors

  • Andean bear showing signs of ‘zoochosis’ with ‘no food enrichment attempt’ observed

  • A ‘substandard’ heating supply for sloths and turtles

  • A lack of supervision by staff in passage areas where visitors can approach animals

Born Free said: “We strongly believe that the zoo continues to fall short of even basic animal welfare and visitor safety standards in several respects.”

A bear looks through a hatch

A bear showed signs of ‘zoochosis’ according to animal welfare group Born Free

Samantha Brewer of the Cumbria Zoo Company, which runs the park, said the claims were “of the utmost seriousness”, adding: “We refute all allegations made by the Born Free Foundation”.

She said the zoo welcomed and upheld the principles of the campaign group, but Safari Zoo Cumbria was “committed to leading conservation on the ground and enriching the lives of the beloved animals in our care”.

She said, “The [Born Free] report contains inaccurate assumptions and, of course, an inaccurate clinical assessment.

“Cumbria Zoo has, over our last four years, been inspected by over 35 government-appointed independent inspectors, the overwhelming results of these inspections being overwhelmingly positive, and the continued progress we are making here at Safari Zoo is recognised.”

She also said there was a weekly hoof care regimen.

A baby and an adult rhino walk side by side in a barn

Born Free said rhinos don’t spend enough time outdoors

Barrow Council said Born Free’s claims would be ‘thoroughly investigated’ with an inspection including staff from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) being held in November.

A council spokesperson said: “We have acted quickly on concerns raised about animal welfare at the zoo.

“Availability issues with Defra Zoo’s qualified inspector mean our inspection will be carried out later than we would have hoped.”

The council said the zoo’s license had been granted for a further six years in 2021, with additional conditions.

An inspection in February reported no animal welfare issues, but a direction to repair drainage in the Africa Paddock has been designed to be completed by the end of the year.

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