A wildlife park in Wales is “devastated and outraged” over a council decision to destroy a Eurasian lynx that escaped from its facilities and straying into a populated area.
The female, which was around twice the size of a domestic cat, had been missing from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom in Ceredigion since October 29.
Ceredigion Council reported the death on Saturday which the wildlife park said they in “no way agreed to or participated in”.
In a statement on its Facebook page the park said: “I would like to make it clear to everyone, however, that the decision to kill her was not ours”.
“We are truly devastated and outraged that this happened.”
The wildlife park had said the lynx, which was called Lillith and was one-and-a-half years old, did not pose a danger to humans but warned members of the public against getting too close.
There were several sighting of the cat during an operation by keepers, assisted at times by a police helicopter, to return the animal to the park around six miles from Aberystwyth.
However, Ceredigion Council said the decision had been taken to humanely destroy the wild animal after the risk it posed to the public increased “to severe” following failed attempts to recapture it.
A statement shared by Aberystwyth central councillor Ceredig Davies on Facebook said: “It is with deep regret that Ceredigion County Council reports on the humane destruction of the Eurasian Lynx that recently escaped from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom.
“Despite exhaustive multi agency efforts to recapture the class A animal, the multi-agency group responding to the incident received additional advice late on Friday afternoon, 10 November, from a specialist veterinary surgeon that the risk to public well-being had increased from moderate to severe due to the continued failure of the Wild Animal Kingdom to recapture the Lynx.
“The safety of the public was paramount and therefore once the Lynx had strayed over to a populated area of the community it was necessary to act decisively.”
According to the park said there have never been any recorded attacks by a lynx on a human, but officials warned that they were wild animals with sharp teeth and claws and “will attack if cornered or trapped”.
Dozens of people replied to Davies’s post expressing their outrage at the decision to kill the animal.
One wrote: “Question: if it was in close enough range to be killed, why could it not have been shot with a sedative?”
Another said: “Other countries can tranquillise big cats & other wildlife, capture and move them to another location away from populated areas. Shame on Ceredigion.”
People were equally “disgusted” about the decision on Twitter.
On Friday it was announced that the Borth Wild Animal Kingdom would be investigated over the escape.
The park has said that it plans to reopen after the inspection and “carry on the work here to give these animals the decent home that they so richly deserve with new enclosures and better amenities”.
In a full statement on the Lynx’s death on Saturday afternoon, the park said:
We are truly devastated by the hunting and killing of Lillith last night. For the past three weeks we have been tracking and attempting to catch her in a safe way. We have employed 24-hour, on-site help from expert trackers and animal recovery specialists who have been aiding us in our efforts, but she proved to be quite elusive. We have spared no expense or effort in our search.
The only options available to us were live catching with nets or luring her into one of the many bait traps that we built and placed in areas she was frequenting. The authorities lent us one bait trap (that was too small) and a few camera traps to aid us in our search. All other help we either employed ourselves or was offered freely by friends and members of the public.
Initially Lillith escaped to the hill behind the zoo and then moved across the bog to a remote, dense woodland. We were advised by the government appointed vet that darting was not possible due to the terrain. We had been pressured from the start to allow marksmen to hunt her with live ammo, but we categorically refused that option. All the time she remained in the woods we could argue that she was a danger to no-one and we fought for more time to capture her alive.
Two days ago, in the early evening we had a call saying that Lillith had been spotted less than a mile away at a local caravan park. The park was closed and empty for the winter period and Lillith was discovered asleep under one of the caravans. When the call came in we were in the middle of a council inspection and the council officials insisted on accompanying us to the location where she was seen. When we got there the caravan was boarded in on three sides with decking and all we had to do was sling a net across the back and we would have had her trapped. Unfortunately, one of the officials insisted that he needed to photograph her and make a positive ID before we were allowed close. He slipped and fell going up the bank which startled her causing her to run past him and off across the fields.
After a fruitless search we were informed that due to her being in a heavily populated area they would be issuing a shoot to kill order and we had run out of time. We made one final effort yesterday to lay traps for her and we were out all day looking for her with catch nets, but the shocking call came in late last night that they had killed her. In just 24 hours they had called in marksmen who had used state-of-the-art night scopes and thermal imaging cameras to hunt her down and shoot her dead. To say we were devastated was an understatement.
The zoo will remain closed until further notice. When we took over this business just six months ago we knew it was in a terrible state. It had been neglected and run down for quite a while with many of the enclosures rotting and not fit for purpose. I think the previous owners had lost heart with the place and had stopped investing in improvements which is why they wanted to sell it. It’s quite an unusual place as it takes in many animals that would not be accepted elsewhere. Many of the animals are rescued from the animal trade or are exotic pets that the owner cannot look after any more.
It is our intention to reopen after inspection and carry on the work here to give these animals the decent home that they so richly deserve with new enclosures and better amenities. We would like to thank the many people of Borth who have supported our efforts and all the words of encouragement from people far and wide.