SINCE South Lakes Safari Zoo was hit by a series of scandals, including the death of a zookeeper and a report detailing the deaths of hundreds of animals, there have been calls for a national regulator to be created to monitor and inspect zoos across the UK.

Under current legislation the licensing of zoos falls to individual local authorities such as Barrow Borough Council which is responsible for inspecting and licensing zoos such as that at Dalton.

Perhaps surprisingly, given his traditional defiant streak and as someone who is known to battle against the establishment, David Gill agrees.

"No disrespect to Barrow Borough Council but I absolutely agree there needs to be a national regulator so that the rules and regulations are interpreted and enforced consistently across the nation," he says.

"The zoos and their staff, along with the councils and inspectors, need protection and it is only right that the law is the same across the board."

Mr Gill reveals that after Barrow Borough Council imposed strict conditions on South Lakes Safari Zoo his staff were "terrified to do their jobs".

"It became absolutely ridiculous," he says.

"The staff were all terrified to do their jobs. They were all too scared to do the most basic of tasks in case they were spotted by the inspectors and hauled before them and accused of doing something wrong.

"They started to doubt themselves and their abilities and that was really unfair."

Under current zoo licensing legislation zoos are subject to an annual inspection and must comply with the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.

At the end of last year environment secretary Michael Gove tasked the Zoo Expert Committee with considering whether any changes need to be made to the zoo licensing system in light of what happened at South Lakes Safari Zoo.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will consider the committee's report once it is complete.