25th February 2014

Longleat Safari Park has admitted they had embarked on a “catastrophic” breeding programme to ensure there was a ready supply of lion cubs for the public to view. They also admitted the zoo had killed lion cubs and that the big cats were at risk of inbreeding and genetic defects. 

Surprising, zoo management came out to admit:

  • There was a deliberate expansion of the lion population at Longleat. The park say this was to ensure there were always cubs on view for visitors.
  • There was a failure to ensure contraception was used properly to control the population.
  • Inbreeding and genetic problems were a threat.
  • The safari park has secretly killed a lion and cubs on previous occasions.

Chief executive, Bob Montgomery, was reported to say.

‘There was an insistence that there were always cubs for guest reaction and ultimately to bring in more people’,

Mattias Warner, an ex-employee contacted The Mail on Sunday to say he had witnessed the killing of four apparently healthy lion cubs in 2009.  Mr Warner explained:

‘I was told a litter of four, apparently healthy, week-old lion cubs were to be put down. Nobody would tell me why. I was instructed to cradle each in turn as they were killed by a vet. I was horrified, but I did what I was told. These were lively, thriving cubs. I was heartbroken. I was told by my bosses at Longleat never to breathe a word of what happened. Even now, five years later, I still feel pain and a real guilt that I was unable to do anything.’

Longleat denied these events took place and that the lions were put down for other reasons. Inbreeding was one of the reasons.

Freedom for Animals Campaigns Director said, 

Zoos claim they breed animals for conservation purposes, yet we have long argued breeding is more based around giving the public something to see. Here, it seems this zoo has finally admitted this, that breeding baby animals was carried out for visitor experience. With uncontrolled breeding animals are at risk of being killed by zoos if they do not have enough space to house them, or fighting occurs between individuals. Killing a healthy animals is never acceptable and zoos in theory, should be doing everything they can to prevent this from happening. Another reason why breeding in zoos needs to stop.