Timeline: The storied past of Dalton zoo and David Gill

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15 February 2016 5:43PM

THE storied past of South Lakes Safari Zoo and David Gill. 

May 1994: South Lakes Wild Animal Park opens. 

November 1997: Mr Gill is found guilty of endangering the public after a white rhino escaped from its enclosure. During the incident in May, the animal fell down a ravine and had to be shot.

July 2001: A tribunal awards former animal park employee Lara Kitson £30,000 in compensation after she claimed she was sacked for being pregnant. Mr Gill denied the allegations.

April 2004: Mareeba Wild Animal Park, Gill’s venture in Queensland, Australia, closes after 15 weeks. He was later fined $10,000AUS after a cheetah escaped from the zoo.

August 2007: Mr Gill is attacked in his own home by the estranged husband of his then-partner. Richard Creary is later jailed for five years for stabbing Mr Gill in the neck.

July 2008: Mr Gill quits as chairman of the Barrow and Furness Conservative Association after just three months. He ran unsuccessfully for the Dalton South ward of Barrow Borough Council in the May 2008 elections, and again in May this year. 

December 2008: A fire in one of the park’s enclosures claims the lives of 30 lemurs.

January 2011: The zoo records its busiest year ever after suspending entry fees in November 2010. 

Almost 60,000 people take advantage of the offer.

February 2012: Major plans to expand the zoo are approved by the Planning Inspectorate, after Barrow Borough Council initially rejects the application due to concerns over the size and character of the development, and traffic. 

May 2012: Mr Gill celebrates his 51st birthday and launches his autobiography, Nine Lives.

May 2013: Zookeeper Sarah McClay, 24, is killed by a tiger while working in the park. The incident results in a criminal health and safety at work prosecution by Barrow Borough Council. Mr Gill and the zoo each face seven charges and, while no formal pleas have been entered, a month-long trial date has been set for June next year. 

November 2013: Kadi the snow leopard is the new arrival at the zoo. She is brought to Dalton from Helsinki, Finland, to be a mate for Wolfgang.

March 2014: Mr Gill publicly opposes same-sex marriage, stating on his Facebook page: “Am I on my own in feeling so disgusted at same-sex marriage? Keep it off my TV and out of my sight!” It comes as history was made with the passing of new laws which allow same-sex couples to officially marry are passed and celebrated. Police investigated the comments but concluded no action should be taken. 

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