South Lakes Safari Zoo
|Date opened||28 May 1994|
|Location||Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, England|
|Land area||51-acre (21 ha)|
|Number of animals||1,000+ (pre expansion)|
|Number of species||150+ (pre expansion)|
South Lakes Safari Zoo (formerly South Lakes Wild Animal Park) is a 51-acre (21 ha) zoo established in 1994 by David Gill, and located in Cumbria, England. Named as such after its proximity to the world renowned Lake District it lies entirely within the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness on the outskirts of Dalton.
The park is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and bills itself as one of the best conservation zoos in the country, with a number of registered charities based in there. Visitor numbers stood at 309,000 in 2011. As of 2015, the park is undergoing a multi-million pound expansion, which involves the introduction of African elephants for the first time. The zoo is being expanded to the east and will include a new entrance and car park directly accessible by the A590 road.
The zoo was opened by David S Gill and his family in 1994 on converted farmland. Construction started in 1993, and the park was officially opened on 28 May 1994.
Until recently it was the only zoo in Britain to hold both Siberian tigers (also known as Amur tigers) and Sumatran tigers (the world's smallest and largest tigers). It has successfully bred the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger. In 2008, the Park celebrated one of the biggest births in its history - white rhino Nyala born on 1 June 2008. Zimba, born on 11 September 2008, was the second White Rhino born at the park. The zoo once held the largest collection of kangaroos outside of Australia, and still has many kangaroos.
The zoo has been awarded the "Top Attraction for Excellence in the Lake District 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2008" by Cumbria Tourist Board, and is one of the few parks to let many species of primates including the 8 species of Lemur roam free around the park. In 2014, in its twentieth year the park changed its name from South Lakes Wild Animal Park to South Lakes Safari Zoo, the park also made the top ten of TripAdvisor's highest rated zoos and aquariums in the UK.
In May 2009, the zoo announced an expansion plan that would increase the park size from 17 acres (6.9 ha) to about 51 acres (21 ha). It is hoped that transportation links and park retail outlets can be improved considerably to make it one of the region's most profitable attractions. The expansion will introduce new species of animals including Elephants, and create larger enclosures for the animals at the zoo. The zoo's two conservation charities are also likely to receive larger donations as the overall visitor capacity of the park is increased.
Plans for this expansion were rejected by Barrow Borough Council’s planning committee in 2010, largely due to concerns about traffic problems due to the proposed new entrance from the U6097 a minor off road of the A590, but after an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, they were approved in February 2012. Fifteen new jobs are set to be created by the expansion, and park owner David Gill has pledged to use only local contractors to carry out the development. Work began on the expansion in 2014 and has already seen the introduction of a number of new species.
Incidents and Accidents
Despite its short history, South Lakes Safari Zoo has been the site of several incidents and accidents that have in some cases been reported globally. In 1997 a three-ton white rhino escaped from its pen and was subsequently shot dead by owner David Gill in an adjacent field. He was fined £10,000 for failing to keep the animal adequately enclosed.
In 2001, Lara Kitson a pregnant employee of the zoo won a case of sexual discrimination and constructive dismissal at a tribunal in Carlisle after she claimed that she was advised to terminate her pregnancy rather than fall short in her job. In 2007, David Gill survived a stabbing at his home on the premises of South Lakes Safari Zoo by Richard Creary, after an affair the formers' wife had with Gill. Creary was imprisoned for 5 years in 2008.
In 2008, 31 of the park's 120 lemurs died in a fire. The fire destroyed three of the wooden huts in which they were enclosed. A spokesman for the fire service said it was believed the lemurs died as a result of smoke inhalation, and park owner David Gill said that the fire was likely caused by a faulty electrical heater. The lemurs were usually allowed the roam the park at night, but had been enclosed because of the cold weather. Gill was able to save 13, including the Belted Ruffed and Alaotran-Gentle species, but many of Ring Tailed, Red Ruffed, White-Fronted, and Black species died in the blaze. Gill said that for staff, who knew many of the lemurs by name, the loss was "devastating", and also that the deaths were "not just a massive blow for the park but for the European Breeding Programmes the animals were involved with."
On 24 May 2013, Sarah McClay, a 24 year old woman who had been working at the park, was mauled by a tiger during public feeding time and suffered serious injuries to her head and neck. She died later the same day at the Royal Preston Hospital. A statement issued by the Cumbria Police said there is no suggestion of any foul play or any issue of suicide or self-harm. Investigations are ongoing, and police have confirmed that the death was the result of either "human or mechanical" error that led to the tiger entering the staff area of the pen. In 2014, during the investigation an environmental officer from Barrow Borough Council stated that a bolt on the door between the dark den and the keepers' corridor was found to be defective after the attack.
In 2015 David Gill received an official warning, after Barrow Borough Council considered closing the park as a result of two sacred ibis escaping in 2014. The birds are harmful to British fauna. In the same year local media covered sightings of two Capuchin monkeys that also escaped the zoo.
The zoo's primate collection includes squirrel monkeys, brown capuchin monkeys, emperor tamarins, siamang, hamadryas baboons, saddleback tamarins, Colombian spider monkeys, cottontop tamarins, black howlers, white-handed gibbons, black and white ruffed lemurs (as well as its sub-species, the belted ruffed lemur), black lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs, mongoose lemurs, gentle lemurs, white-fronted brown lemurs, and red ruffed lemurs. Many of the zoo's lemurs are free-roaming.
Other mammal species include giraffes, spectacled bears, South American tapirs, white rhinoceros, prairie dogs, pygmy hippopotamus, Rodrigues fruit bats, alpacas, Arctic wolves (two males and one female), giant otters (a male named Carlos and a female named Tupi), two-toed sloths, donkeys, pigs, Oriental small-clawed otters, muntjac deer, capybara, reindeer, lowland paca, fennec foxes, pygmy goats, red squirrels, babirusa, yellow mongooses, tayra, Siberian chipmunks, and a male giant anteater named Joao.
The zoo's parrot collection includes mealy Amazons, blue-fronted Amazons, orange-winged Amazons, yellow-naped Amazons, African grey parrots, blue and yellow macaws, military macaws, red and green macaws, scarlet macaws, and red-fronted macaws. Some of the macaws are allowed to fly around the zoo freely.
Waterfowl species include sacred ibis, glossy ibis, scarlet ibis, coscoroba swans, Caribbean flamingos, white storks, European spoonbills, black swans, little egrets, and free-roaming ducks and geese of various species, including Mandarin ducks, wood ducks, red-crested pochards, Magellanic geese, and Hawaiian geese.
Other bird species include Humboldt penguins, king vultures, turkey vultures, emu, crested caracara, Andean condors, and various species of pheasant, including Lady Amherst's pheasants, blue-eared pheasants, and kalij pheasants.
The zoo's reptile collection includes boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, a single yellow anaconda, red-eared terrapins, and various species of tortoise, including Hermann's tortoises, leopard tortoises, and African spurred tortoises.
Facilities include the Maki ("ring tailed lemur" in Malagasy) restaurant, picnic areas, conference facilities, a small train, and a gift shop. The Maki restaurant has a deck overlooking the giraffe, rhino, and baboon enclosures at tree-top level.
The zoo bills itself as one of the best conservation zoos in the country. It has raised over £1.4million for active in-situ conservation for Sumatran Tigers via its charity The Sumatran Tiger Trust. Also with a charity called the wildlife protection foundation which helps wildlife in other areas of the world like Spectacled Bears and the lemurs of Madagascar.
- "EAZA Member Zoos & Aquariums". eaza.net. European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
- "Cumbria Tourism Task Group Review". Cumbria Tourism. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
- South Lakes Safari Zoo Expansion Site Plan
- "Park History". wildanimalpark.co.uk. South Lakes Wild Animal Park. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
- Dalton Zoo Standing High in TripAdvisor's Top 10
- "Dalton animal park to treble in size". North West Evening Mail. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
- "Dalton Zoo Expansion Plans are Approved by Inspector". nwemail.co.uk (North West Evening Mail). 21 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Safari Zoo Leaflet
- "Council Rapped Over Rhino Escape", The Westmorland Gazette, August 15, 1998.
- Zoo boss 'told worker to end her pregnancy' at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/
- Husband jailed for stabbing millionaire zoo owner after catching him in bed with his wife
- "Fire at Park - Information". South Lakes Wild Animal Park website. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- "Fire kills 30 lemurs at sanctuary". BBC Sport. 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- "Thirty lemurs burned to death in fire at South Lakes wildlife park". Whitehaven News. 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- South Lakes Wild Animal Park: Zoo keeper mauled by tiger in Cumbria dies in hospital at mirror.co.uk/news
- A zoo keeper who died after being mauled by a tiger may have been "dragged" into a pen, police said. at bbc.co.uk/news
- Sarah McClay inquest: Zoo owner 'fired rifle' at tiger
- South Lakes zoo owner faces prospect of losing zoo licence
- A SECOND monkey on the loose from Cumbrian animal park
- "Facilities". wildanimalpark.co.uk. South Lakes Wild Animal Park. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
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