The Wales wildlife park whose escaped lynx was shot dead has detailed a “devastating” second death of a wild-cat following a “terrible handling error” that caused the animal to be asphyxiated.
Borth Wild Animal Kingdom on Monday issued a statement detailing the circumstances surrounding the “demise” last week of Nilly, an adult female lynx.
The news comes after the park on Saturday condemned a council decision to destroy a Eurasian lynx called Lilleth on Friday night after it strayed into a populated area after escaping from its Ceredigion enclosure on October 29. The park, who had failed to recapture it, said it in “no way agreed to or participated in” the animal’s destruction and was “devastated and outraged”.
Writing on its Facebook page, the park, which was already being investigated over Lillith’s escape, confirmed Nilly’s death with “deep sadness and regret” and said while the two animals were not related, they had shared an enclosure.
Nilly, the park wrote, was killed while a handler was trying to more it to a more “suitable enclosure”, following pressure from authorities.
“Over the past few weeks our staff have been under incredible pressure and when the authorities gave us 24-hour notice that they would be carrying out a full cat inspection we took the decision to move Nilly to a more suitable enclosure.
“Unfortunately, there seems to have been a terrible handling error where it seems she twisted in the catch-pole and became asphyxiated.”
The park said an internal investigation is underway and a “key member of staff has been unable to work since the ordeal as they are truly devastated by what has happened”.
It said authorities were notified after the incident occurred.
The park, which was taken over by Dean and Tracy Tweedy less than six months ago, attempted to defend itself over the deaths by citing a myriad of problems it inherited: “We knew that there were serious issues with how some of the animals were housed.”
The park said the lynx enclosure was “especially not fit for purpose” and one of its first improvements was installing a double door system so staff could safely gain access and segregate the animals to stop them from fighting.
“Plans are in place to build a whole new enclosure on the hill for the lynx which will give them all the individual space that they need,” the park, which is closed until further notice, wrote on Facebook.
“This summer we have been working hard to make vast improvements, but it does seem to be that we are swimming against the tide. There are many serious issues with this establishment that need to be addressed before we go forward.
“Hopefully we can work with the authorities to bring this place up to code and create a home for these animals that is safe and secure.”
The park said its closure would be a “real loss” to the county of Ceredigion, where it is the only zoo.
“We bought this place not to make money, but because we are animal lovers and could see that this place in this beautiful location needed some serious love and attention.”
Commentators on Facebook have not been sympathetic to the park’s latest announcement, labelling them “an absolute joke” and a petition has been launched by The Lynx Trust to close it. As of Monday afternoon over 3,100 people had signed it.
The petition reads:
Most “hobby zoos” like Borth, run by inexperienced owners, do not provide any benefit to conservation or education, fail to meet basic animal welfare standards, and create a significant threat to the public as unpredictable, captive-bred, human-habituated animals are left to escape.
The Lynx UK Trust are campaigning for the closure of Borth Zoo and have offered a new home for their lynx at a remote rescue centre in Wales where they will be cared for by experts in wild felines.
Please sign this petition supporting the closure of Borth and rehoming of it’s animals to competent zoos and rescue centres; the local council (Ceredigion County Council) have the power to instantly remove their operating license creating a better future for their animals and a safer environment for the people who live in the region.
The trust, which has applied to Natural England for permission to release Eurasian lynx into Kielder Forest in England and also want to rewild the animals in the Scottish Highlands, has been highly critical of the park.
Chief scientific adviser to the trust, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, said he visited the zoo and had the sequence of events explained to him.
He said: “What if it had been Borth’s crocodile that escaped? Or their two lions? Their leopard almost escaped a few years ago when its cage door was left open; how long are we going to let these hobby zoos run by amateurs keep operating? Will it take the death of a human for someone to take action?”
Releasing a picture of seven sheep believed to have been killed by Lillith, the Farmers’ Union of Wales defended Ceredigion Council’s decision to shoot it.
“In an ideal world the lynx would have been quickly recaptured, but this did not happen,” a spokesman for the FUW said.
“Given the risk to people and livestock, action to remove such a danger was long overdue. Had the animal not been allowed to escape in the first place, this situation would not have arisen, and it seems a number of our members livestock would not have been attacked and killed.”
The park disputes the fact that Lillith killed the sheep.
A statement shared by Aberystwyth central councillor Ceredig Davies on Facebook said of the decision to shoot Lillith: “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 had warned that they were wild animals with sharp teeth and claws and “will attack if cornered or trapped”.
Th eshooting decision was not well received by the public who questioned why the lynx could not have been tranquilised.
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.”