Zoo Suspended


Noah's Ark suspended by zoo welfare group

A Wraxall zoo farm at the centre of allegations it is breeding tigers and camels to be used in circuses has been temporarily stripped of its membership of the country's leading zoo welfare association.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza) has temporarily suspended Noah's Ark's membership while an investigation into the claims is carried out. Noah's Ark can stay open to the public because its licence is controlled by North Somerset County Council. The decision follows an investigation by the Captive Animals Protection Society (Caps) at the farm.

An undercover female investigator, who secured work at the zoo farm as a volunteer for two months during the summer, worked alongside staff where she claimed to have discovered that the zoo was breeding animals to be used in the Great British Circus owned by Martin Lacey. The investigator also claimed the zoo was in breach of animal disposal regulations following the death of female Bengal tiger Tira earlier this year.

Caps claims that Tira, who died 10 days after the birth of three cubs, had her head and paws cut off, her skin removed and her body buried in the zoo grounds. Caps, a registered charity, has reported its findings to various authorities, including North Somerset Council, and called for Noah's Ark owners Christina and Anthony Bush to have their zoo licence revoked. Biaza has strict guidelines for its members to adhere to and, if a breach is found, zoos can be stripped of their membership. Biaza chiefs have asked Mr and Mrs Bush to provide them with full details of their operation. The association's membership and licensing committee is due to meet in November to discuss the allegations.

Biaza executive director Miranda Stevenson said: "I can confirm we have suspended Noah's Ark membership of Biaza pending the investigation." Caps spokesman Craig Redmond said: "We welcome the news that Biaza has suspended the zoo's membership. This is recognition of the seriousness of the complaint we put forward and we hope that membership will be revoked entirely.

"We trust that investigations by North Somerset Council and Trading Standards into zoo licensing issues and the burial of Tira's body will also result in serious action being taken."Mr and Mrs Bush have denied the allegations and said the farm had no link to the circus and that the animals belonged to Linctrek Ltd, a company which provides trained animals for use in film, other collections and TV.

Mr Lacey, as well as being the owner of the Great British Circus, is also a director of Linctrek.

A spokesman for the zoo farm said: "The welfare of the animals is exceptional with Noah's Ark passing government and institutionally accredited inspections. We are in consultation with Biaza regarding our membership and are fully committed to discussing any changes Biaza may deem necessary."

North Somerset Council, which is responsible for licensing the zoo, is also investigating the claims. The investigation has also prompted protests from animal rights organisations, with members of the Western Animal Rights Network staging a demonstration outside the farm gates earlier this month. The zoo farm opened in 1998 and now is home to more than 100 species of animals including giraffes, rhinos, tigers, emus, wallabies, camels and this year welcomed more than 112,000 visitors through its doors.

Its new £200,000 tiger territory opened in July this year.


From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann