It isn’t every day that BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) issues a sanction but that is what happened officially on the 4th August 2021.
This follows a four-month investigation undertaken after several incidents of animals killing each other.
The Scottish Sun recently uncovered that two lionesses were mauled to death after a new male was introduced to the pride in 2016. The original article on their website is here but I’ll warn you it does have some graphic pictures of dead lions.
The Born Free Foundation has been instrumental in calling for the investigation. It looks like whistleblowers from the zoo itself contacted them with details of the other deaths. In 2016 a young antelope was killed by a larger male. In 2018 a lemur was killed after escaping into the tiger enclosure. Most recently in 2020, a Barbary macaque was killed after escaping into the lion enclosure.
It looks to me like the issues fall into two categories. Firstly, some of the monkeys can get out of their enclosures. Animal escapes are uncommon but not unheard of. Probably the hardest escapees to stop are monkeys in safari parks. I’m not sure if we can cast any blame on Blair Drummond for this.
The monkeys are the reason people go to safari parks – to have them jump on your car and pull off your windscreen wipers. They are clever, athletic and inquisitive. How on earth do you stop one holding onto the bottom of your car and exiting with you?
Secondly, some of the social groupings haven’t quite worked. This is really tough because you know the keepers really, really care for their animals. No one wants to see a hand-reared antelope die in an altercation, least of all the person who hand-reared it. That being said though, to have this happen twice in four years makes me wonder if there is some underlying issue that needs work on.
I think BIAZA has taken the right approach. They have cleared the safari park of any animal welfare concerns but noted that some processes need change. You can read the press release here. Perhaps it is not a surprise that the corresponding Blair Drummond press release here doesn’t mention the sanction.
So what does the sanction mean? Well, Blair Drummond will need to agree to mentorship by an ‘experienced zoo CEO’. This probably isn’t a bad thing and more collaboration can only help a zoo improve.