‘Serious concerns’ over welfare as Fife Animal Park closes

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DOZENS of exotic animals face being put down following the closure of a Scottish zoo, a charity has warned.

Fife Animal Park, near Cupar, which is home to 76 species of animal including water buffalo, a zebra, meerkats and capybaras, closed to the public on Monday.

The zoo, which is facing a probe by the charities’ watchdog, says it will re-house the animals.

The zoo is home to capybaras, a species of large rodents
The zoo is home to capybaras, a species of large rodents

But animal welfare campaigners say based on previous experience it may not be possible to find new homes for all of them.

The Fife Animal Trust announced on Facebook at the weekend: “As of 17/02/14 the animal park will no longer be open to the public.

“The reasons behind this decision will be announced by the trustees  in the near future.”

The Trust added in another post: “Don’t worry about the animals, they are going to be re homed, going to other zoos and parks.”

Animal welfare charity OneKind’s policy director Libby Anderson  said: “OneKind has serious concerns about the situation of the animals at the Fife Animal Park.

“Previous experience shows that it is difficult to find suitable homes for exotic animals and it is essential that this is done with the participation of an animal welfare organisation such as the Scottish SPCA.

“Re-homing them is completely different to re-homing a domestic animal as their needs are extremely specialised.”

This hand-reared meerkat also calls the park home
This hand-reared meerkat also calls the park home

She added: “While we hope that these animals will find happy endings, perhaps the fact that the park is closing is a sign that public opinion is turning against zoos and parks, and people no longer want to see animals kept in unnatural conditions purely for human entertainment.”

Asked if the animals would have to be put down if new homes could not be found, a spokesman for the charity replied: “That’s the danger.”

The 10-acre park is home to animals including Agie the Highland cow and Houdini the goat.

Other animals which will need to be to be rehomed include capybaras, water buffalo, a zebra and a mob of meerkats.

The park itself is owned by Peter and Jocky Lockhart while the animals and some of the equipment is owned by the Fife Animal Trust, which was formed in 2011.

Animal welfare campaigners say finding a home for all the animals will be difficult
Animal welfare campaigners say finding a home for all the animals will be difficult

In October last year the zoo was put up for sale for £500,000 following the decision of 72-year-old Jocky Lockhart to retire.

But the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) stopped the sale from going ahead the following month, saying “charitable assets” were included in the sale.

Rules prevent charities from trading assets in commercial deals, and the OSCR opened an investigation into the Fife Animal Trust.

The OSCR report said that in 2011/12 the zoo’s income was £69,000 and its expenditure was just under £45,000.

Scottish SPCA Senior Inspector Steven Gray said: “We are aware of the potential closure of Fife Animal Park.

“Over the years we have received calls from the public relating to the animals and conditions at the park, but these concerns have all been identified and addressed as and when they have arisen.

“We will provide support to the council as required with regards the onward care of any animals which may require rehoming as a result of the closure of the facility.”

Fans on the zoo’s Facebook page were saddened by the news.

Ashleigh May Reid posted: “Devastated by this news…..Fife Animal Park was one of my most favourite places in the world! Best of luck to you all and to the animals  x”

Ann-Marie Peggie wrote: “Very sad about this as this place was perfect for taking young kids, not too big but enough to do and see for them.”

Peter Lockhart, the manager of Fife Animal Trust, could not be reached for comment.

OSCR’s Head of Enforcement, Laura Anderson, said: “Our concern from the outset has been the welfare of the animals and the protection of charitable assets.

“From the earliest stages of our inquiry we have maintained a close dialogue with Fife Council as the animal welfare authority, the charity’s trustees, and their professional advisors.

“While we continue with our inquiry, we will work with Fife Council to achieve a satisfactory outcome.”

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