London Zoo parties probed after 'beer thrown at animals'

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Media captionDeputy zoological director Malcolm Fitzpatrick: "Animal welfare is our highest priority"

After-hours parties at London Zoo are being investigated over claims of guests throwing glass at animals, pouring beer over them and trying to climb into the enclosures.

More than 24,000 people have signed a petition to stop Zoo Lates, which is claimed to have caused "fear and distress" to animals.

Westminster Council said it had asked for "a full report into what happened."

London Zoo said the wellbeing of its animals was always its priority.

Zookeepers have reported drunken behaviour including guests crushing butterflies, touching penguins and pouring drinks on people and animals.

'Beggars belief'

Ben Williamson from charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said: "It's always seemed like a bad idea to us - thousands of people being plied with alcohol, in what's advertised by London Zoo as a 'wild night out'.

"To deliberately encourage and promote events that pose the kind of fear and distress this causes to animals simply beggars belief."

Image caption The petition claims visitors touched penguins and crushed butterflies

A London Zoo spokeswoman said: "The wellbeing of our animals is always our first priority and we would like to reassure those people that have taken the time to sign the petition, that we would not continue to run any event or activity which compromised this, in any way.

"We are taking every measure to ensure our Zoo Lates evenings are positive experiences for both our animals and visitors and will continue to work closely with Westminster Council to make sure they are satisfied we are meeting and exceeding all license requirements."

Mr Harrison, Westminster City Council's operation director of street management said: "If they are true, the stories about London Zoo's Late sessions raise real concerns both about public safety and animal welfare.

"The zoo has duties of care and clear commitments under its premises and zoo licences."

On Friday, the petition claimed that there were reports of guests throwing glass at animals. However, London Zoo has since said this is inaccurate as glasses are not sold at London Zoo Lates. By Tuesday, these claims had been removed from the petition.

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