‘UK’s worst zoo’ found still failing animals after big cat ban

Inspectors who visited Borth Zoo in March 2021 identified a number of areas of concern including insecure fencing and pens which were too small (Picture: Rex)

A zoo branded the ‘worst in Britain’ was found to be failing on a range of issues after inspectors visited earlier this year, new files show.

Borth Wild Animal Kingdom in West Wales was ordered to make ‘urgent’ changes after being found to be keeping wolf dogs showing signs of ‘stress’ and to have inadequate fencing for the most dangerous animals.

Other issues included overgrown bushes, pens which were found to be too small and a kookaburra bird which died due to long-term cancer.

The closed visitor attraction near Aberystwyth, which trades as the Animalarium, was banned from keeping big cats last summer after years of struggles which include dozens of animal deaths and financial difficulties.

However the business has struggled on despite being compulsorily wound up earlier this year and one of the owners said today they have taken all necessary measures to address the issues with a view to reopening as a petting zoo.

A response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Metro.co.uk shows it was hit by a new round of issues after a spot check by officers from Ceredigion County Council on March 22, 2021.

The ‘brief report’ shows that eight South American coati, a member of the racoon family, were in a pen of ‘insufficient size’ and needed more room ‘to exercise and express natural behaviour’.

A family of five silver foxes ‘possibly need more room for exhibiting natural behaviour’, according to the inspectors.

Other areas of concern included overgrown bushes in a cockatoo pen and the owners were reminded that three pigs needed access to clean water at all times and must be identified for traceability.

Two wolf dogs were seen pacing and showing signs of stress, with the report stating ‘more room needed’.

The animals were not being vaccinated under a care plan and were only being routinely wormed, according to the council’s report.

It states: ‘The health plan stated that wolf dogs need routine vaccination for distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis; these to be provided annually.
‘These not been provided in line with the health plan.’

At an antelope enclosure the animals were found to be in ‘good condition’ but the fence was ‘not at all secure and fit for purpose, and many fence posts rotten’.

The zoo was ‘currently looking for a new home for these species’, according to the report. Also of concern was the kookaburra, which died over the preceding weekend due to long-term cancer, with the authors noting it had been treated by a vet.

The majority of animals observed by inspectors were in good condition and were exhibiting ‘natural behaviour’, with ‘clean and suitable accommodation’.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Keith Morris/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock (9180042l) Co-owner Dean Tweedy with Alsatian Husky dog Benji standing outside the lynx enclosure at Borth Wild Animal Kingdom Search from missing Lynx in Borth, Wales, UK - 30 Oct 2017

Zoo co-owner Dean Tweedy with his Alsatian husky dog Benji standing outside the lynx enclosure at Borth Wild Animal Kingdom (Picture: file image, Keith Morris/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock)

However a separate health and safety at work report from the same visit found the enclosure for the antelope ‘did not afford the necessary security/containment, particularly for Category 1 animals’.

The report states: ‘You stated that to renew the fencing would cost a significant amount of money; however, in the interest of safety an alternative arrangement; for example; rehousing or relocation to a safer environment should be considered as a priority should renewal of the security fence be prohibitive.’

The council’s Policy, Performance and Public Protection officer also wrote: ‘The general housekeeping arrangements were poor and require urgent review. The risks to employees and volunteers from discarded equipment, fencing etc was evident. Obsolete items should be removed to provide a safe and uncluttered working environment.

‘I look forward to your written response to satisfy compliance. Failure to provide the requested information may result in a more formal enforcement.’

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Keith Morris/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock (9180042k) One of the other lynx at the Borth Wild Animal Kingdom Search from missing Lynx in Borth, Wales, UK - 30 Oct 2017

A lynx at Borth Wild Animal Kingdom which was pulled up by inspectors on a range of areas of concern in a March 2021 report (Picture: Keith Morris/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock)

The zoo, which is run by Tracy and Dean Tweedy, was not open to the public at the time but was operational with four full time members of staff and eight volunteers.

Since the couple took over four years ago, the attraction, which featured in a 2019 BBC series, Saving Britain’s Worst Zoo, has encountered a slew of problems including dozens of animal deaths and the escape of a lynx, a species in the most dangerous ‘category one’ grouping.

Three antelope also broke free in March 2020 and the zoo was banned from keeping category one animals, including big cats, under a compromise with the council the following summer that allowed them to keep the rest of the site open.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Keith Morris/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock (9180042a) Police officers at the entrance of the Borth Wild Animal Kingdom Search from missing Lynx in Borth, Wales, UK - 30 Oct 2017

Police officers at the entrance of the Borth Wild Animal Kingdom during a search after a lynx escaped in October 2017 (Picture: Keith Morris/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock)

Referring to the inspectors’ report, Mrs Tweedy told Metro.co.uk: ‘A lot of what they had to say were things we were already aware of and were already addressing. A lot of them have been addressed since then and things are continuing to be addressed because there are a lot of changes going on here at the moment.’

Mrs Tweedy said a new home had been found for the antelope and the owners are ‘just waiting for them to be moved’.

The zoo director added: ‘We will be reopening this summer but as a petting zoo. Because of lockdown obviously it’s been horrific over the last year and a half, it’s been really difficult so basically we will be downsizing until we make the improvements that we know we need to make in order to get our zoo licence again.

‘I know it’s been tough for everybody but it has been difficult, we’ve only been open for eight weeks in the last eighteen months which is not ideal.

‘We are doing our best to improve things here which is what we’ve been doing in the last four years since we took over.

Borth Wild Animal Kingdom pictured after it closed during a search for an escaped lynx in October 2017 (Picture: Wales News Service)

Borth Wild Animal Kingdom pictured after it closed during a search for an escaped lynx in October 2017 (Picture: Wales News Service)

‘Obviously it’s not been easy with the closures and Covid and everything else but it’s a good time to downsize and scale things up again, but this time to build them up properly, not the way they were before.’

The zoo’s latest struggles come as the Government takes steps to prohibit zoos and safari parks from keeping elephants.

A forthcoming report on the welfare of the giants in captivity is thought to say they suffer mental illness and other physical issues such as arthritis when kept in enclosures.

The policy is expected to be part of wider zoo reforms, announced in the Kept Animals Bill in the coming months.

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