STAFF at South Lakes Safari Zoo are calling on the public to visit to the attraction after inspectors gave the attraction a bill of clean health since new bosses took over.

A team of three council-appointed inspectors, two of which visited the zoo a year ago when the new company was first awarded a licence to run the attraction, carried out a comprehensive audit last month.

As well as inspecting every aspect of the zoo, including a full day spent visiting all areas, talking to staff and observing visitors, the inspectors examined all the paperwork, feeding regimes and administrative processes.

When Cumbria Zoo Company was awarded its licence last May licensing bosses at Barrow Borough Council imposed a raft of strict conditions after an inspection in March 2017 found "obvious deficiencies in the accommodation, the overcrowding and the lack of proper welfare and husbandry".

But since the new company has taken over the reins from zoo founder David Gill, judged by the authority to be responsible for the previous failings and animal welfare issues, huge change has been afoot.

Animal numbers have been reduced, new safety measures implemented and the maintenance team has carried out countless changes to improve the visitor experience. And, in a telling sign of endorsement, no new conditions are being imposed following this latest inspection.

The new chief executive Karen Brewer, who took over the running of the zoo last May, said last month's inspection was "nerve-wracking".

"It was a year on since we took over and we've done an immense amount of work," she said.

As well as the periodical inspection the zoo has also been subjected to a number of unannounced visits.

"Everybody who works here has welcomed them because it allows the public to see we are doing it right," Mrs Brewer said.

"For us, getting this new inspection report is incredibly positive, because it means we are on the right track and we have their backing."

The zoo's employees have had a tough time over the last year but in what can only be seen as a sure sign of their commitment and dedication they have stuck it out.

"Every single one of us wants the best for this place, for the town and for Cumbria," Mrs Brewer said.

It's not about making money, it's about making a difference, and hopefully building those bridges with the community and making something everyone can be proud of."

After getting the backing from the inspectors the zoo's staff now want the public to see for themselves the changes which have been brought in.

Mrs Brewer said: "Yes there's been tough days and at times I'm sure we've all thought about leaving. But we are here because we love our jobs and we love our work.

"If we can get people through the door they can see for themselves what we have done; they can see what kind of a place it is."

The new emphasis on transparency, both with the staff and with the visitors, has benefits for all involved, as Mrs Brewer explained.

"Going to work and feeling you can have a say and being involved makes your job so much more rewarding," she said.

"From a company point of view you get the best out of people that way.

"More and more new people are coming into the fold but we have had issues recruiting and finding the right people.

"Personally it's so rewarding to see people love their job and to want it to work."