South Lakes Safari Zoo: Licence application rejected after 500 animals die in four years

Barrow Council turns down bid after concerns raised over animal welfare

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A zoo where nearly 500 animals died within four years has had its application for a new licence rejected.

Barrow Council turned down the bid from South Lakes Safari Zoo after concerns were raised about animal welfare.

A report last month found 486 animals had died at the zoo in Dalton-in-Furness in just four years, leading to criticism of the owner, David Gill.

Government inspectors suggested the business' licence should not be continued while the current management remained in place.

That led Mr Gill to lease the running of the zoo to a different company, Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd, for six months, while he remained only as the landowner. 

He requested a new licence last July but was rejected, forcing him to reapply. But that, too, was turned down by councillors on Monday. 

South Lakes, which opened in 1994, has more than 1,500 animals. It was the subject of controversy in 2013 when a member of staff, Sarah McClay, was mauled to death by a tiger.

The zoo was later fined almost £300,000 for health and safety failings, with poor accommodation, overcrowding and inadequate welfare all having been highlighted as problems.

Among the 486 deaths were those of two snow leopards found half-eaten, a giraffe that slipped on inappropriate flooring and seven lion cubs that were killed because there was not space to house them.

Mr Gill has 28 days to appeal against the ruling.