Freedom for Animals are frustrated to report that the local council responsible for Safari Zoo (previously known as South Lakes Safari Zoo) have recommended that a new zoo licence be granted, despite outcry from the public and animal protection organisations, as well as an ex-staff member coming forward with further shocking claims about animal welfare issues.

Documents posted on the website of Barrow Borough Council outline the council’s recommendation to award the licence to Karen Brewer, a long term employee of the zoo  where almost 500 animals died in recent years. She has set up a company with other employees from the zoo, Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd in an attempt to take it over.

This recommendation has been made despite submissions from animal protection organisations, concerned local residents and even ex-employees and volunteers who have come forward to speak out about what they say has been going on at the zoo.

One ex-employee of the zoo claims he had been told by management to feed the animals “mouldy bread” and had to regularly “beg for scraps of food” from the zoo’s restaurant “just to give the animals some fresh food”.

In his statement to the council he outlines the struggles he says he faced trying to make sure the animals were fed correctly, claiming “none of the animals are getting the correct diets”. He also claimed animals have continued to die at the zoo.

Some examples from his submission to the council:

I always had this struggle under the management of Mr Gill [the previous licence holder] but under the new regime of management it is even worse, and I have on many an occasions had to buy food myself… just to include fresh food in the diets.

I was told to feed the tortoises cabbage despite management being made aware that cabbage should NOT be in their diet. I regularly had no fruit for the fruit bats and have even been told by senior management – being the CEO, Karen Brewer – “it doesn’t matter they can wait a few days”.

The animal deaths at the zoo are still continuing (since January 2017) under the new management including the adult male babirusa (poh), and other animals including a mongoose, leopard tortoise, scarlet ibis, rhea and an emaciated penguin amongst some.

Freedom for Animals has been contacted by this person plus a number of other employees and volunteers of the zoo since the South Lakes story made the headlines. All of them issued statements to Barrow Council but some wished to remain anonymous, so not all of the information they provided has been made public.

Freedom for Animals are concerned to see that there is no mention whatsoever in the council’s report of what action they took upon receiving the whistle-blower statements and what investigations they made. There is no mention of how this information played into their decision-making about recommending the licence. With damning claims about how the zoo allegedly continues to be run, we would hope these would be taken into consideration.

Emaciated kangaroo at the zoo photographed by Freedom for Animals

If investigations are still ongoing then we would argue a decision cannot be made until they have been determined. If anything in the claims of the whistleblowers is true, then surely a licence should not be granted?

Freedom for Animals continues to have deep concerns regarding the management of the zoo, as Karen Brewer and many other employees  have had responsibility at the zoo over the years when animals were being neglected and died. Karen Brewer has been present at the zoo for many years in management roles and moved to CEO in early 2016. She has been present at Zoo inspections since 2011 showing her awareness of the issues taking place at the zoo over the years.

The council and zoo inspectors acknowledge the past roles of staff members but appear to not see that they held any past responsibility for what happened to the animals.

A final decision will be made on whether to grant the licence at a council meeting on the 9th May. If granted, the licence would last for 4 years.

Take Action

Freedom for Animals will be attending the hearing on the 9th May to speak out for the animals. Please contact the council before then to share your thoughts on this issue too –
Email: [email protected]

To read the full council report visit: