24th October 2023

The most recent white rhino to be born at England’s horror zoo, South Lakes Safari Zoo, came into the world in December 2022. The male calf’s arrival was advertised as a school-break attraction, as was the birth of the previous male calf just four months earlier. Named Imfolozi, and Sprout, these two boys served as visitor attractions from the moment they were born. 

However, they were born into an environment that could not provide for them. And what’s worse, the business that inflicted this life upon them, South Lakes Safari Zoo, knew that their facility was woefully insufficient: a January 2017 government-appointment inspection reported that they were "dismayed by the obvious deficiencies in the accommodation, the overcrowding and the lack of proper welfare and husbandry".

In the five years that followed, nothing changed, yet multiple Southern White Rhinoceroses were purposefully bred into this environment despite there not being room or resources for them. This was proven in the most recent inspection in February 2023 in which it was found that the Africa House particularly had an overcrowding issue. This report concluded from its observations that “It is now essential that changes are put in place to ensure that the welfare needs of these animals are met. It is recommended that a direction to comply with the conditions on their licence is applied to the zoo.”

Now, the zoo has submitted a planning application to convert land 40-50 miles from its primary site to house two of the eight rhinos it currently holds captive. It seems that after years of knowing that they were not providing for their rhinos, and continuing to exacerbate the problem with continued breeding, South Lakes Zoo has now taken this small step as a result of the licence for their business being threatened. 

There are decades of evidence to show that South Lakes Zoo does not care for the wellbeing of the animals it keeps. This planning application is merely a bid to keep the business alive, not to improve animal welfare.

The one thing that is certainly truthful in their planning application is that the rhinos need more space. However, approximately 8.5 acres in the Yorkshire Dales National Park simply isn’t good enough. The International Rhino Foundation recommends that at least “10,000 to 15,000 acres… must be secured” for protecting a rhino population in a managed reserve. An adult female in the wild will roam a territory of up to 49,000 acres, 5,765 times the area covered in the planning application. 

Press coverage of the plans have been misleading, and at odds with the content of the planning application. The Westmorland Gazette has reported that the new development would feature “a limited number of animals occupying the 120 acres of land”. However, the planning application states that the development for housing the rhinos “concerns approximately 3.46 hectares” - just 8.5 acres within the larger development owned by the zoo - a development currently being operated as a holiday cottage complex, which the article also suspiciously notes that they plan to expand from five to eight lodgings.

The planning application also explicitly states that “The site would not operate as an extension to the safari zoo and would not be open to visitors and/or the general public”, whereas the Westmorland Gazette reports that the “attraction will only be open to the public through pre-bookings”. 

Is this inaccurate reporting, or has the paper’s interview with the management team revealed their true intentions - to open a second site which will serve as another attraction that keeps wild animals captive for profit?

At Freedom for Animals we want more space and a better life for these rhinos, and all the animals currently imprisoned in South Lakes Safari Zoo. But this is not the way to achieve that. If planning permission is granted to develop this site and keep rhinoceroses there it will be a gateway for the next chapter in this zoo’s story, a story that should have been ended a long time ago - after hundreds of animals were found to have died in a single year, after a keeper was mauled to death, or after any of the inspections that found poor welfare and intolerable conditions. 

Our demands remain the same:

  • South Lakes Zoo’s zoo licence must be permanently revoked.

  • The local authority must facilitate the removal of all animals held captive at South Lakes Zoo to appropriate and accredited sanctuaries.

Sign the petition today to demand that Westmorland and Furness Council ends the suffering in South Lakes once and for all, and keep an eye out out on our socials for more action on this development!