Beds, Herts & Bucks

Live penguin show axed by Riverside shopping centre

A shopping centre in Hertfordshire has dropped a show involving penguins following a campaign by wildlife protesters.

The show was planned for Riverside in Hemel Hempstead on Saturday. The cancellation follows Hamleys in London cancelling a similar event.

The Born Free Foundation said it was inappropriate to use live animals in promotional events.

Riverside said protesters "did not check their facts".

Campaigners, including wildlife photographer Darren Hector, had claimed penguins were easily stressed and should not be placed in a busy shopping centre.

'Used to noise'

"They should not have to endure crowds of people and screaming children in the name of selling Christmas," Mr Hector said on his blog.

Announcing the cancellation on its website, Riverside said staff were experienced animal keepers and the birds "have been used to noise and human interaction since birth".

"The purpose of the event was to promote better awareness of penguins in an educational manner not to exploit animals during the festive period," it said.

It added it could not guarantee a protest would not take place and was "not prepared to put the safety, wellbeing and enjoyment of our customers at risk".

The Born Free Foundation, which had urged supporters to contact the centre, said it hoped the move by Riverside would send a message to other retailers.

A show at Hamleys toy store in Regent Street was due to go ahead on 6 December but cancelled amid welfare concerns.

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