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Animal Welfare: Zoos

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will investigate the circumstances surrounding the recent fatal shooting of a chimpanzee at Whipsnade Zoo; and if he will make a statement. (159661)

[holding answer 23 October 2007]: My Department has no direct role in decisions regarding the shooting of escaped zoo animals.

Zoos are regulated by means of a licensing and inspection regime administered by local authorities. South Bedfordshire district council is responsible for licensing Whipsnade Zoo where this incident took place. I understand the council is investigating the incident and that a full inspection of the zoo will be carried out in due course.

I also understand that Whipsnade Zoo is carrying out its own investigation into why the chimpanzee escaped from its enclosure.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidelines are in force to advise zoo owners of appropriate action to take when an animal escapes; whether requirements are in place to require the use of tranquilising darts rather than firearms; and if he will make a statement. (159662)

[holding answer 23 October 2007]: Section 1A(d) of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended) requires zoos to prevent the escape of animals and to put in place measures to be taken in the event of an escape or unauthorised release of animals.

In addition, DEFRA's Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice (SSSMZP) provides guidance, to ensure public safety, on the procedures that should be established by the zoo relating to animal escapes.

Procedures relating to animal escapes should include the provision of firearms and darting equipment to tranquillise or kill escaped animals. The precise details of these are discussed and agreed by the zoo operator and the local police. The zoo is responsible for the selection of the appropriate firearm or darting equipment to deal with escaped animals.