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Troubled Zoo's New Management Complying With Licence

South Lakes Safari Zoo is complying with the conditions of its licence under new management.

However, animal director Andreas Kauffmann did threaten to resign in the summer over the pace of change at the troubled Dalton attraction.

Cumbria Zoo Company Limited took over after founder David Gill's licence wasn't renewed following the deaths of hundreds of animals.

Barrow Borough Council sent inspectors to the park in August - their report was considered at a meeting last week.

It found there were too many "contact incidents" - including a lemur climbing in a pram; and squirrel monkeys jumping on visitors.

In his report, Dr Matthew Brash said: "Lemur feeding by the public has historically been of concern. The large number of lemurs and people involved in these public feeding sessions has the potential for them to come into contact with these primates and the potential for them to be bitten.

"The inspectors observed a feeding session and noted the keepers do a good job instructing the public about safety and requesting they stay approximately one metre back from the rail. It's educational and informative and the public obviously hugely enjoyed the experience."

Mr Kaufmann confirmed changes had been put in place during his short time as animal director.
He said: "Some changes have already been put in place regarding interactions between animals and the public.

"Squirrel monkeys are no longer allowed in public contact areas and they never will be again.

"Some changes have already been made to lemur feedings such as less attractive food items and organisational and constructional ones are on the way.

"However, we are aiming to replace the current lemur interactions with more attractive experiences involving zero risk."

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Following the decision from Barrow Borough Council, the area's MP John Woodcock has written to secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, Michael Gove.

Mr Woodcock has previously criticised the zoo management for their failings under David Gill's leadership.
In his letter to Mr Gove, he said: "I am writing to you to request a meeting to discuss animals at risk at South Lakes Safari Zoo in my constituency and seek to persuade you to act to overhaul the country’s wholly inadequate zoo licensing framework.

"I congratulate you on your decision to increase the criminal penalty to those found guilty of cruelty to pets. I understand this would also apply to zoo animals, can you confirm that this is the case please? Would the new guidelines you are drawing up encapsulate neglect such as that witnessed in South Lakes Safari Zoo?

"As you will be aware, earlier this year there was the shocking discovery of large-scale neglect of animals, over 500 animals died some in horrific circumstances.

"This finding came a few years after the tragic death of my constituent, zookeeper Sarah McClay, who was killed by a tiger in 2013. Barrow Borough Council is meeting today to discuss the findings of a new inspection of the zoo which is now nominally under new management.

"Whatever the council’s decision, it is essential that the government now commits to root and branch reform of the wider zoo licensing regime which is simply not fit for purpose and is leaving many zoo animals across the country at risk of cruelty and neglect.

"In South Lakes Zoo, a fresh licence to operate was granted to a new company made up of many members of the regime that was stripped of its license following the inspection.

"As it stands, any council charged with making a decision on zoo licenses has no legal authority to take into account issues such as this. They are forced to rely solely on a snapshot provided by inspectors who are not full time professionals, and often riven with conflicts of interest.

"Surely, in the wake of the South Lakes scandal the government should act to establish a fit and proper person’s test that would bar those who have been in positions of responsibility under a previous failed regime. It should also consult on how the regulatory system for zoos can be professionalised so it replicates the standards seen in other professions where welfare and safety are at risk.

"I would really welcome the chance to put this case to you in person and discuss your views on how to improve this inadequate, out-of-date system that has demonstrably failed in its basic purpose.

"Given the high level of interest in this matter, I am making this letter publicly available."

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