A HARROWING death list reveals for the first time how almost 500 animals - including tigers, lion cubs and giraffes - have died at a popular zoo in less than four years, the Evening Mail can exclusively reveal in a special investigation.

Poor management, emaciation and hypothermia are among the reasons for the above-average mortality rate at South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton, while trauma and infighting caused by overstocked pens also account for the demise of scores of exhibits.

The shocking log, which provides a distressing catalogue of injuries and illnesses endured by a wide range of species at the site between December 2013 and September last year, has been branded the worst seen in 60 years by national campaigning charity the Captive Animal Protection Society.

It forms part of a huge bundle of documents disclosed to Barrow Borough Council which will be assessed by council bosses ahead of their decision on whether to approve either of two separate applications for a zoo licence at a crunch meeting for the business on March 6.

Maddie Taylor, Caps campaigns officer, said: "The findings at South Lakes Safari Zoo are some of the worst we have ever come across in 60 years.

"Our visit to the zoo combined with the zoo inspectors' reports shows high death rates of animals, animals in ill health and a lack of understanding about how to meet even the most basic needs of the animals under their care.

"We urge the local authority to take action by closing this appalling zoo down."

In one case on the death list, an African spurred tortoise named Goliath was electrocuted when it became stuck in charged fencing, while the decomposed body of a squirrel monkey was discovered behind a radiator, making a post mortem impossible to carry out.

The zoo, which is said to attract around 250,000 visitors every year and was known as South Lakes Wild Animal Park, lost two giraffes in the space of nine months with the first, a 13-day-old bull, dying of a gastrointestinal infection thought to be E coli in October 2015.

A second, an eight-year-old male, was shot in July last year after it collapsed and attempts to get it to re-stand overnight failed.

The vet who carried out a post mortem on the animal later raised concerns over the nutrition of the giraffe herd as its bodily condition was found to be similar to others that had been unwell or died.

Mystery surrounds the sudden death of two snow leopards; Miska and Natasja, in October 2015 after they were discovered partially eaten in their enclosure.

A vet intitially suspected they may have been poisoned but blood tests ruled this out. No post mortem was undertaken.

Indiana, a three-year-old white rhino, died after being crushed against a barrier by another rhino.

Some animals were killed as a form of population control - with seven healthy lion cubs euthanised at four days old in August last year because the safari zoo did not have room for them.

It followed the culling of five baboons in 2014 after their number grew too large.

Founder: David Gill And 18 sacred ibis birds were shot by founder David Gill after he was threatened with prosecution for allowing the non-native species to fly free from the zoo - a move heavily criticised by avian experts during a subsequent court case over the matter.

Separate papers obtained by the Evening Mail show that just two months ago, a jaguar named Saka was euthanised after it chewed off its own paw overnight on December 27.

The keepers claimed it had sustained a bite beforehand but a report by external veterinary experts state other jaguars kept on site have suffered cut or damaged pads in the past from broken glass in rubble in the enclosure, loose wires in the jaguar house and large nails on the feeding poles.


A TIGER responsible for the death of a keeper in 2013 was euthanised on the orders of controversial zoo founder David Gill last year, new documents show.

Sumatran tiger: Padang Padang, a 14-year-old Sumatran tiger, was "culled" on March 22 last year - three years after its fatal attack on 24-year-old staff member Sarah McClay.

It was one of three tiger deaths recorded to have taken place at South Lakes Safari Zoo, in Dalton, in the last four years.

A catalogue of animal deaths made public for the first time reveals the attraction's vet was instructed to kill the big cat by Mr Gill with "no notes as to reason".

The record is at odds with the reason for Padang's departure last year when Mr Gill said the decision to put the animal to sleep had been taken on the advice of veterinary experts.

In a Facebook post last year, Mr Gill said: "Our independent ethics committee discussed all the options and had to agree with the specialist advice.

"The EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) Breeding Programme was informed and carnivore staff consulted beforehand."

It added: "In the wild, we have never monitored a male tiger past 10 years old, as they are not capable of surviving in the wild after that age.

“So, at his age, he was likely to be prone to complications. We shall all miss him."

Padang was found to have gained access to a feeding area where keeper Miss McClay was working before attacking her.

The former Dowdales School pupil suffered serious head and neck injuries during the tragic incident and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

South Lakes Safari Zoo was fined almost £450,000 after admitting to health and safety failings which resulted in the mauling.

The animal death records also show an 18-year-old female Amur tiger died in August 2013 of old age.

Alicia, a Sumatran tiger, was found dead in her enclosure just a few months later, in November 2013 after a member of the public reported seeing her choking.

A post mortem report concluded she had eaten a piece of meat too large to be swallowed, causing a piece to be inhaled into her larynx.


ZOO inspectors have compiled a damning report on failings at a Dalton zoo - as they press for its controversial founder to be prosecuted for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

A team of externally appointed experts visited South Lakes Safari Zoo last month to check the welfare of its animals and to ensure standards meet UK requirements for zoos.

But they concluded animals kept in areas managed by controversial site owner David Gill were beset with "significant problems" that had led directly to the deaths of a number of exhibits.

They highlighted deaths and injuries suffered by animals kept in the Tambopata aviary, tropical house and the old lemur houses as being "appalling and shocking" and contrary to modern welfare standards.

The secretary of state appointed zoo inspectors; Professor Anna Meredith, Nick Jackson, MBE, and vet Dr Matthew Brash, wrote: "The causes of these deaths can be laid either directly or indirectly upon the modus operandi of South Lakes Safari Zoo under the direction of DG (David Gill).

"The way these animals have been housed, treated and looked after is typical of the poor levels of management that the inspection team have found when the zoo was under South Lakes Safari Zoo management and can without any doubt lay the entire blame at his door."

Their conclusion goes on: "The conditions that these animals are being maintained in is, quite frankly, appalling and shocking and has led directly to the death of a number of them.

"It falls far below the standards required and is indicative of the lack of suitability for DG (David Gill) to hold a zoo licence."

The inspection team found the areas in question had too many animals for the enclosures available with non-compatible species sharing living space.

In December alone, seven parma wallabies, a Spix's guan and a Lady Amherst's pheasant had all died with one part time keeper - responsible for 170 animals - admitting she had been told to dispose of any further bodies and "not to tell anyone'".

One wallaby kept in the area, which is now off show to the public, was found to have injuries to its tail consistent with being bitten by rats while still alive.

The inspectors said they believed Mr Gill showed a "callous disregard" for the welfare of the animals in the area, adding: "Many of the welfare issues noted by the inspection team can clearly be put down to poor management."

They now recommend Mr Gill is refused a continuation of his licence to run a zoo.

They are recommending he is prosecuted under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act for allowing animals to suffer.

The report is the latest in an ongoing saga relating to the future of South Lakes Safari Zoo which has been blighted by controversy for a period stretching back many years.

In 2013, keeper Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled to death by Sumatran tiger Padang which led to a health and safety prosecution and a fine of almost £450,000.

There have been a series of animal escapes, including a three tonne rhino which marauded the streets of Dalton in 1997 and had to be shot, a flock of sacred ibis birds regularly flew to the beach at Roanhead, near Barrow, in 2014 while Capuchin monkeys were spotted loitering near to nearby homes that same year.

Further safety concerns were raised by inspectors last year after they declared a network of wooden walkways throughout the site were not safe for the public.

An attempt to renew the site's zoo licence last year was unsuccessful after members of Barrow Borough Council's licensing committee voiced concerns over the attraction's operation.

Two fresh applications have been submitted to the authority which are set to be determined at a meeting on Monday, March 6.