Festival goers torment gorillas in restricted area of zoo
Footage, photos and testimonies from investigators who attended a music festival held last weekend in the grounds of a UK zoo prove previously-voiced fears for animal welfare and public safety are well-founded, says a spokesperson from Freedom for Animals.

The Port Lympne Safari Park played host to Ibiza’s “Zoo Project” dance festival from the 14th – 16th September and, after concerns raised publicly earlier in the year for animal and public safety during this type of event were ignored, investigators from the charity went along to the festival to assess how the risks were managed.

Footage, photos and statements from the investigators confirmed open drug use and alcohol consumption around the zoo site. A lack of security allowed festival-goers who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or other substances into restricted areas close to the park’s bachelor group of gorillas. Audio recordings hear the three boys in question discussing jumping into the enclosure to “shake hands” with the apes, as two zoo jeeps drive past and ignore the presence of the unauthorised group.

Further footage shows objects being thrown into the baboon enclosures and carp ponds and the gorillas being tormented with sticks on two separate occasions. An audio recording of a member of zoo staff who was approached after objects were thrown into a primate enclosure hears a member of zoo staff confirm: 

“Yeah, we’ve had quite a lot of trouble this weekend…“

The zoo was supposed to close to the public and festival goers at 6.30pm but footage taken around 7pm on the Saturday night shows 

the park entrance unsupervised, apparently allowing easy access to anyone who was minded to enter during the evening.

On the website for the event, it was stated that “the actual festival grounds will be located away from the animals in a remote section of the 600 acre wild animal park” but the festival main stage was estimated to be around 500 metres from the entrance to the zoo and the music, which went on until around 1-2am in the morning, could be clearly heard within the park.

Said Former Freedom for Animals Director, Liz Tyson: 

“This is a clear case of Port Lympne putting profit before the most basic needs of the animals. The combination of people under the influence of alcohol and other substances and animals who cannot escape the situation, shows the zoo management’s blatant disregard for both animals and festival goers. The most astounding thing is that, despite the incidents witnessed over the course of the weekend being largely predictable, security on site was not in place to protect the animals, or the visitors.  Last year saw the deaths of two dolphins in a Swiss aquarium after drugs were thrown into their tank by people at a dance party held there. It seems a matter of sheer luck in this instance that a similar incident didn’t happen here. It would certainly seem that if someone had it in mind to interfere with the animals, there were no measures in place to stop them”.

When he was informed of the investigation, Labour’s shadow environment spokesman, Tom Harris, told the Sunday Express that he would be tabling questions when the Commons returns next month.

He said: “Most people would be appalled by this. I’m shocked.

“If the Act is not fit for purpose, then it needs to be. It’s as simple as that.. And if that gets in the way of some corporate event organisers, then tough.”

The charity says that, notwithstanding its view that a zoo is no place for any animal, this is a clear indication that neither is a zoo the place to hold events such as these and hopes that this will be the “wake up call” required to ensure that this trend does not continue.

National newspaper, the Sunday Express covered the story today. Read more here.

Further coverage in the Mail on Sunday here


Top: Festival goers torment gorillas in restricted area of zoo

Bottom: Festival goers inhale balloons thought to be filled with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in zoo gardens

Investigation published September 30th, 2012