Inspectors visit Cumbria zoo ahead of fresh licence application

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Government inspectors have carried out another visit to assess animal welfare standards at a Cumbrian zoo.

A team of experts appointed by the Home Office spent two days at South Lakes Safari Zoo last week as part of a fresh application for a licence for the attraction from Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd.

The latest inspection represents the first chance for the new company, formed in January, to demonstrate improvements to the site since they took over full responsibility for its day to day management.

The conclusions of the inspection team will be revealed in a report set to be shared with Barrow council - the body responsible for issuing a zoo licence - in the coming weeks.

Karen Brewer, Cumbria Zoo chief executive, said her team was focused on continuing with the implementation of improvements while they awaited the findings of the inspectors.

Mrs Brewer said: "We had our inspection on Monday and Tuesday last week.

"The process now is that the inspectors will send their report to the council and we will have a certain period of time to respond to it after that.

"In the meantime, the team are continuing to work hard. We are all obviously delighted with the birth of a baby giraffe this week which is fantastic news," she added.

An inspection of the zoo in January revealed animal welfare standards within an area managed directly by Mr Gill were poor and had resulted in the deaths of a series of exhibits.

A post mortem report also revealed nearly 500 animals died in just four years because of inappropriate animal husbandry and harrowing conditions.

The causes included emaciation, exposure and infighting within overstocked pens.

South Lakes Safari Zoo is operating without a licence after Barrow Borough Council bosses refused to renew the existing permit held in the name of the attraction's owner, David Gill.

A formal closure notice was also issued by members of BBC's licencing regulatory committee after they ruled the zoo had failed to comply with a series of direction orders put in place last year.

However, the zoo can remain open for 28 days pending an appeal of the licence refusal by Mr Gill.

Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd, of which Mr Gill is not a director, hopes to secure its own zoo licence from Barrow Borough Council in May.

A petition calling for the permanent closure of South Lakes Safari Zoo now has more than 200,000 signatures.

A counter petition calling for the zoo to be allowed to remain open has attracted 407 supporters.

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