Freedom for Animals went undercover at the Bristol Zoo Gardens “Big Night Out” event In July 2016 and caught on camera zoo staff stating that the loud music and visitors "do stress [the animals] out" and were "stereotyping" by pacing back and forth.

Advertised as “a fun-packed night full of entertainment perfect for birthdays, stag and hen parties” alcohol and live music was on offer, in the zoo.

Our investigator filmed lions pacing back and forth repeatedly as loud music was blaring in the background from the event. When asked why the lions were behaving that way, one staff member stated the event was causing them to be stressed stating:

"with an event like tonight, because there is so much going on that is unusual for them, obviously normally there's not music, normally there's not people here at 10 o' clock at night, it does stress them out a bit so they're just keeping an eye on what's going on and they are more prone to stereotyping, so pacing”.

The zoo's facebook group also received complaints about the event with locals stating they could hear the music from two miles away in Redland.

Campaigns Director, Nicola O'Brien:

"The zoo continues to state that it has the animals' welfare in mind, yet a member of staff has openly told the investigator that the event was causing the lions stress. The animals cannot escape the loud noises that go on around them when they are subjected to hours of loud music and guests. That people could apparently hear the music two miles away goes to show just how loud this event was."

Prior to the event, a zoo spokesperson stated “the event is designed to be enjoyable for all guests, without compromising animal welfare”. This is something we strongly refute as our footage shows how the music could be heard throughout the zoo and in the animal enclosures. Some guests were filmed making loud noises and shouting near the animals.

In 2012 Freedom for Animals exposed the “Zoo Project” festival held at Port Lympne Zoo where drunk people were seen harassing the animals, with one group of boys threatening to jump into the gorilla enclosure and others wandered around in off-limits areas. One party-goer even attempted to sell illegal drugs to our investigator in the zoo.

Visitors drinking alcohol around animals at Bristol Zoo late night event

A similar event held at London Zoo in 2014, was under fire when it was revealed in a UK newspaper that one visitor “poured beer over a tiger” and another “stripped off and attempted to enter the penguin pool”. In addition to these two incidents, other visitors were said to be getting“touchy feely” with the baby penguins whilst another man asked a member of staff “which penguin can I fight?

London Zoo have stated they have cancelled these controversial events but seem sadly seemed to simply move onto rebranding the event as more "family friendly".

Nicola continues:

"This is not the first time we and others have documented the negative impacts of these night time events on animals yet zoos continue to put their animals at risk. The only way to prevent this happening again is to end them once and for all. If zoos really care about animal welfare, they will stop organising these events."

Marc Bekoff, former Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado stated:

"These lions are clearly highly stressed. They are pacing back and forth and extremely vigilant. If they behaved like this everyday I'd imagine they'd suffer from severe psychological problems from this level of stress. This type of stereotyped behavior is abnormal and is typical of captive animals who are feeling uncomfortable and out of sorts. Having music at the level we can hear in the video is only likely to exacerbate these abnormal behaviors. "

Report published Summer 2016.