ANIMAL rights organisation PETA have criticised Edinburgh Zoo for planning to bring back “Zoo nights” events.
According to the zoo partygoers can create a loud, stressful environment for the animals on display – PETA sent a letter this morning calling on the zoo to cancel the “traumatising” events.
Edinburgh Zoo insists animals never have – and never will – suffer any form of stress as a result of the evenings, which are vital to help fund the institution.
PETA, in a letter to Chris West, the chief executive of Edinburgh Zoo, claim that at similar recent events at the London Zoo, one person reportedly tried to pour beer on a tiger, another allegedly attempted to undress and enter the enclosure that held penguins and another fell and “accidentally” punched a bird, among other incidents.
According to Edinburgh Zoo’s website, visitors will be permitted to consume alcohol in a “relaxed atmosphere” and enjoy other after-hours entertainment to “kick start” their Friday nights.
In addition to putting animals at risk, allowing visitors in the zoo outside normal business hours interrupts the animals’ usual sleep schedule – especially when they behave in a manner that causes the animals distress.
“Putting animals at risk for the sake of making a few pounds should make the public question Edinburgh Zoo’s priorities”, says PETA Director Mimi Bekhechi. “PETA are calling on Edinburgh Zoo to do what’s best for the animals – and that means cancelling the stressful ‘Zoo Nights’ events.”
Other dangerous occurrences reported at similar zoo events include one incident in which a man got “touchy-feely” with some baby penguins and another in which a man asked a staff member, “Which penguin can I fight?”
A spokeswoman for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said: “Edinburgh Zoo Nights visitors have never shown behaviour of this nature, which we totally concur is unacceptable.
“Although alcohol is available in moderation, there is absolutely not a ‘drunken’ atmosphere. The events, of which there are only four, are planned in conjunction with our animal experts.
“Our keepers are very careful to monitor our animals’ behaviour at any evening event and these events are tailor-made to ensure there is no disturbance to them, with all entertainers and bars situated away from animal enclosures, even our disco is a silent one. Simply put, there is no one that cares more about the animals in our care than our keeping staff.
“The animals can also enjoy the added stimulus of visitors to the park with enrichment activities, evening feeds and later access outside in some cases. We would like to reassure you that we are confident that there are no welfare complications and the animals are always our priority.
“As a charity that receives no public funding we rely on gate attendance, events and sponsorship for our resources to care for animals and manage conservation, research and education programmes. This does mean exploring ways to increase our income in a world with escalating conservation challenges. We are also very much about education and Edinburgh Zoo Nights is very popular with younger people who enjoy being at the Zoo and are fascinated by the animals and engaged with keepers and other staff about our work.”