South Lakes Safari Zoo wins new licence after takeover

A giraffe at South Lakes Safari Zoo
Image caption The zoo is a popular tourist attraction but has come under fire for the treatment of its animals

A troubled zoo which had been threatened with closure following the death of hundreds of animals and one of its keepers is to be allowed to remain open.

Cumbria's South Lakes Safari Zoo was refused a renewal of its licence in March after inspectors raised concerns about its founder, David Gill.

However, a takeover by a firm formed by staff has seen a "change of culture".

Barrow Council has now granted Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd (CZCL) a licence.

The authority's licensing regulatory committee was told Mr Gill had already handed management of the Dalton-in-Furness site over to CZCL on a six-month lease.

Government inspectors had previously highlighted concerns of poor management and "inadequate" veterinary care.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Gill is no longer involved in the attraction's management, the council was told

However, the same inspection team supported CZCL's licence bid as they were "highly encouraged" by improvements made since the management takeover.

Speaking at Barrow Town Hall in opposition, Maddy Taylor from Captive Animals' Protection Society (Caps) said the organisation was "disappointed" councillors were being recommended to grant a four-year licence to CZCL.

Saying recent changes at the zoo were "too little too late", she added: "Some improvements may have been made in recent months, but it is not a new zoo. There is a history of suffering and neglect."

Keeper Sarah McClay, originally of Glasgow, was mauled to death by a tiger in 2013 - leading to a £297,500 fine for the zoo over health and safety breaches.

Image copyright Stephen McClay
Image caption Keep Sarah McClay was mauled to death when a Sumatran tiger got through an unlocked gate

In February of this year, a council report revealed 486 animals had died there in four years.

Two snow leopards were found partially eaten, a pair of squirrel monkeys were diagnosed with septicaemia and a post-mortem examination found a giraffe was overweight.

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