LARGE cats will no longer be able to display their hunting instincts after safety concerns were raised over a popular event which sees them scale 20ft poles to earn their food.
Keepers at Dalton’s South Lakes Safari Zoo have climbed ladders for nearly two decades to place meat for the park’s carnivores, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger.
Earlier this year one of the keepers suffered a broken collarbone when she was blown off a ladder by a gust of wind, a post on the zoo’s Facebook page said.
The statement added that Barrow Borough Council had now told the zoo it must stop the feeding event which is witnessed by thousands of visitors every year.
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It is estimated that zoo staff have climbed ladders more than 75,000 times since 1996 ‘for the huge welfare benefit to the animals’.
“Even though the keepers now wear helmets, strap the ladders to the poles firmly and have permanent foot fixing points for the ladders, Barrow Borough Council wishes to stop us from feeding in this way as they claim it to be too dangerous for the staff,” said the statement.
It added that the ban would completely stop the ‘exciting’ feeding time practice and ‘our unique way of stimulating our cats’.
“It is imperative we feed in this manner, a scientifically proven way of improving health, fitness and welfare for the big cats,” said the statement.
The zoo said it had tried rope pulley systems and long poles to get the meat to the top of poles but it did not work.
“We have made every effort to find solutions that benefit the staff and the animals and yet we are still in this situation,” added the post.
A Barrow Borough Council spokesperson said an improvement notice was served under section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
“This notice was served because the park had failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of its employees to prevent a person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury whilst undertaking the routine placement of food at height for big cat carnivores,” added the spokesperson.
“Barrow Borough Council has a duty to ensure the health and safety of persons employed at the park and also visitors to the park.”