Cumbria Zoo Ltd have released a statement stating that they officially took over the operation of Safari Zoo (South Lakes Safari Zoo) on the 12th January this year.

The statement attempts to assure the highest welfare standard and emphasises the lack of involvement of David Gill (owner of the zoo) who has been blamed by inspectors and others for most of the shocking findings at the zoo. They go onto say that Mr Gill has clearly demonstrated his wish to pass his legacy to a new team.

This statement implies that the team will be a new one, which we have discovered is far from the truth. Some key management staff and Directors of Cumbria Zoo Ltd are those same management staff who had been employed by South Lakes Safari Zoo. Four out of eight of the new directors of Cumbria Zoo Ltd are past Directors or key managers at South Lakes Safari Zoo.

The CEO of Cumbria Zoo, Karen Brewer, has been present at South Lakes Safari Zoo inspections as far back as 2011. At these inspections, inspectors have raised varying degrees of animal welfare concerns and deaths.

In particular at inspections in May 2016 and November 2016, the inspectors raised concerns over preventable deaths. It was highlighted that animals were dying from causes such as exposure, hypothermia and trauma. Key management staff were interviewed in May 2016, some of whom remain involved in the new structure of Cumbria Zoo Ltd.

Whilst the zoo had been told that the heating must be in place by the winter, when inspectors returned in November, the African house had no heating and animals had virtually no substrate or bedding. The same key management at Cumbria Zoo Ltd have been aware of these issues and have not been able to meet the most basic requirements for animals under their care.

The same veterinary team who accepted that the level of injuries and death were unacceptably high but did not have a plan for how it could be reduced are listed on both applications for South Lakes Safari Zoo and Cumbria Zoo Ltd.  The veterinarian coordinator listed on Cumbria Zoo Ltd’s application sits on the board of Directors for South Lakes Safari Zoo and is David Gill’s wife. This very much illustrates to us that the team is not a new one, but one simply without the presence of David Gill.

Whilst it seems apparent that David Gill has played an undeniable role in the welfare, deaths and overall state of the zoo, the responsibility cannot be solely placed at his feet. Other key management were aware of the situation with serious welfare issues and preventable deaths of animals continuing for years and still ongoing. These very smae staff had a responsibility to do something to help the animals.

We have been contacted by various sources stating that the situation has not improved since Cumbria Zoo Ltd has taken over the operation of the zoo.

Further detail on this will be released in due course.

Freedom for Animals will be attending the council meeting today, to speak up for animals suffering in the zoo. We will urge the council to take action and close the zoo down.