Dalton zoo boss claimed to have rewritten the textbook on successful animal care
THE self-styled conservationist at the centre of animal suffering allegations boasted his zoo management methods were better than a textbook just a fortnight before government inspectors condemned his practices.
David Gill, who founded South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton, claimed the birth of a baby rhino at the park in December was a "fitting tribute" to his "work and expertise in zoo animal management" on December 28.
Mr Gill went on to brag on his Facebook account that he had enjoyed "huge success" having "always pursued a different style of management to the norm, or the textbook".
He said: "I wish many other zoos would watch and learn from our example as it is not worth copying books and guidelines if they don't actually work."
Mr Gill went on: "In my opinion you simply do not listen to people who have had far less success than you in any area of life."
His comments were made just two weeks before government zoo inspectors condemned him as having "callous regard" for animals in his care at the controversial attraction he owns, where almost 500 exhibits were this week revealed to have died or been killed under his watch in less than four years.
Post mortem examinations ruled emaciation, hyperthermia and trauma caused by overstocked pens had been among the causes of the deaths.
The team of government-appointed expert zoological inspectors have now recommended Mr Gill is prosecuted under section four of the Animal Welfare Act for allowing animals to suffer.
Included among the deceased animals on the shocking death list was three-year-old rhino Indiana, who died in 2015 after being crushed against a barrier by another rhino.
Inspectors also voiced concerns over the care of other animals in the Africa House.
Zoo managers were warned last August that the building must be heated through the winter to ensure the health of the giraffe herd, a species native to the warmer climes of Africa.
But during an inspection in January, the doors were found to be open, the building was unheated and the temperature inside was just nine degrees Celsius - a situation the experts labelled "particularly disappointing".
The Africa House itself comes under particular criticism from the inspectors in their official report to Barrow Borough Council over its poorly considered design.
Despite there being recognised best practice available for buildings intended to house animals such as giraffes, Mr Gill was reported to have come up with his own design for the Dalton zoo's Africa House using a piece of squared paper before proceeding with its construction.
The zoo inspectors noted it had been poorly considered - with scroll doors that have to be fully open or closed making temperature regulation difficult and a steep slope in the outdoor hard yard which, they believe, could prove dangerous for animals in icy conditions.
The experts also wrote that the building had been finished with a smooth concrete floor instead of rough concrete - resulting in one giraffe, an eight-year-old bull, slipping over last year.
The animal was shot hours later when attempts to re-stand it failed.
Members of Barrow Borough Council's licensing committee are set to meet on Monday to discuss Mr Gill's application for a zoo licence.
Mr Gill has stated through his lawyers that he has passed all day to day responsibility for the zoo to the newly-formed Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd which is seeking its own zoo licence through a separate application.