Inside UK's 'worst' zoo where keeper was mauled to death and almost 500 animals died as it faces calls to be closed | The Sun

TAKE a look inside the UK's worst zoo where a keeper was mauled to death and almost 500 animals have died.

South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria has been blasted over animal welfare issues once again.

Fresh calls have been made to shut the attraction following a recent visit by the animal rights charity Freedom for Animals (FFA).

The charity found a firework display put on by the zoo at Christmas time would have caused "immense stress" to the animals.

A FFA spokesman said: "From our investigator's position, a reading of 82 decibels (db) was registered on their electronic sound meter: comparable to being next to a lawnmower, a level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss to humans.

"Animals have much more sensitive hearing to humans, so if 82db can cause issues to human hearing, it will most certainly affect animals' more dramatically and cause far more distress.

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"Every animal at South Lakes Zoo will have suffered stress as a result.

"The fact the event was held every weekend in the run up to Christmas – as well as every night through the week before Christmas Eve – shows a complete lack of consideration by zoo staff."

It comes just months after animal welfare charity Born Free published a report claiming the zoo "fails to meet even basic standards".

FFA director Dr Andrew Kelly said: "It is unbelievable that this zoo can continue to fail animals with no consequences.

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"Given the history of consistently failing to ensure the welfare of many of their animals it is time for the local authority, which is responsible for enforcing the legislation, to hold the zoo to account and remove its licence.

"Appropriate homes should be found for all of the zoo's animals at suitably accredited animal sanctuaries where they can be assessed for release to the wild or to live out their lives in as good an environment as possible where they are not subject to constant disturbance by visitors and stunts like the recent firework displays."

In 2013, keeper Sarah McClay was mauled to death by a tiger while working.

The zoo was later fined £297,500 for breaching health and safety.

In 2017 a council report revealed 486 animals had died between December 2013 and September 2016.

The zoo's licence was agreed for a further six years in 2021 – but with some additional conditions and directions placed on it.

Kim Banks, animal manager for Cumbria Zoo Company, which runs the Safari Zoo, said they refute claims made by FFA.

She said: "Animal welfare is always our number one priority and we refute the claims made by FFA.

"We've hosted around 30 low-noise firework displays at the zoo since taking over in 2017 and there have been no issues with any animals during these events.

"We prepare carefully and fully risk-assess all events before they take place.

"During any events, regardless of their format, qualified staff are positioned around the zoo monitoring animal behaviour and reactions.

"If we had any concerns at all, the event would be halted immediately.

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"The animals are also checked and monitored following the events in the ordinary course of running the zoo."

The local council has said after a recent inspection, a report will be released next month at a hearing.

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