UK

Longleat Safari Park Defends Decision To Kill Six Lions

10/02/2014 11:23 GMT | Updated 10/02/2014 11:59 GMT

A British safari park has defended killing six of its lions, because of a 40% increase in new cubs, after a worldwide outcry.

Longleat Safari Park, in Warminster, posted a statement about the matter on its Facebook page, where members of the public posted furious messages.

The park said that problems had begun when lioness Louisa arrived at Longleat in 2011 as an 18-month-old cub, and had "exhibited neurological clinical signs which were thought to have been caused by inadequate nutrition".

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Lions at Longleat safari park, Warminster

But despite healthcare and better food, her condition never improved, and the same symptoms "were present in her cubs, which were clearly distinct from other litters in the pride as they all individually exhibited adverse neurological signs such as ataxia, incoordination and odd aggressive behaviour that were not considered normal".

The park said that they believe the genetic fault in the cubs was down to "relatively high levels of inbreeding" and further reviews of related animals "revealed a high level of brain tumours, which had not previously been reported in lions, as well as a general failure of normal neurological development".

The safari park said it had "never seen these problems in the many other cubs born here over the years".

The statement continued: "Longleat believes it would not have been responsible to translocate these animals to another collection, nor would any responsible zoological collection accept this particular group of lions, with the known high associated risks of neurological disorders and other genetically related health issues being passed on to later generations.

"After considering the pressures in the group, due to the recent increase in pregnancies, and the developmental disorders present in the cubs it was reluctantly decided that euthanasia was the responsible option for these individuals."

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The public was invited to view the dissection of Marius the giraffe

One of the cubs had to be put down because he was attacked by his brother and by Louisa. The further lions referred to were put down due to associated and severe health risks.

The statement did little to abate the fury online.

Shelly Medium wrote on the Facebook page: "You are disgusting. You have a duty of care to all animals .. You have failed beyond belief. Have you not heard of re homing? Contraception? I am so glad that I heard of this before my planned visit to you. I nor my family will ever cross your gateway."

Another outraged visitor, Jeanette Tracy Gahagan, wrote: "Disgusted!! I always believed that this place was for the benefit of animals that were unfortunate to have been born in captivity... now I find that they are as disposable as lord Baths art work. The slaughter of the lions that relied upon you for safety was horrific."

The case comes on the back of social media uproar over the killing of a young giraffe, Marius, at Copenhagen zoo, with the animal skinned and fed to lions despite an offer from other zoos to take him. Marius' euthanasia prompted by the strict inter-breeding rules of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to which the zoo belongs.