Bristol Zoo defends itself after shocking animal deaths

The Bristol Zoo is on the defensive after a series of bizarre animals deaths and escapes in recent months.

A male Visayan warty pig named Elvis attacked and killed his former mate, Manilla, and ate their newborn piglet. A golden-headed lion tamarin fell into the water surrounding its island enclosure and floated toward the otters, which ate the endangered primate. And, only two of three rainbow lorikeets were recovered after the trio escaped through a small hole in their exhibit. The third is presumed to have died in the cold, according to the zoo.

Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo
Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo

Earlier this month, a whistleblower told local press about the series of disturbing incidents, which raised questions about animal care and procedures at the zoo. But zookeepers moved to assure animals lovers that despite best efforts, officials can’t foresee every situation nor prevent  natural animal behaviours.

“Our dedicated team of keepers and vets are committed to ensuring our animals receive the best care possible, the facility said in a statement. “Incidents such as these are distressing for the team and we are constantly seeking to improve.”

Dr. Christoph Schwitzer, the zoo’s director of conservation, turned to YouTube to address what he called a couple of “very unfortunate and unforeseen incidents” that have occurred over the last three months.

The zoo explained that the warty pig couple, which is part of a critically endangered species in the wild, was getting along last year, but veterinarians had no reason to believe Manilla was pregnant. Otherwise, they would have separated the pair.

Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo
Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo

“Detecting pregnancy in warty pigs and many other wild animals can be very difficult as, unlike humans, they often don’t show obvious signs,” the zoo explained. “Furthermore, separating a pair of warty pigs can stress both individuals and we wanted to avoid this without just cause.”

In the case of the devoured tamarin, the zoo said mammal keepers arrived at the location of the incident as quickly as possible.

Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo
Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo

“This was a freak and unfortunate accident,” the zoo wrote in response to guest concerns on Facebook. “We understand your concerns, situations like these are also very distressing for our keepers, who spend every day caring for the animals.”

And, as far as the lorikeets on the lam, the zoo said their enclosure was checked twice a day, but a small hole, which was covered with plants, was missed. Once discovered, it was fixed.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums stepped up to defend the facility.

“Staff caring for these animals have been understandably distressed after these sad and unusual events,” a spokesperson told the Telegraph. “But we are confident that Bristol Zoo is doing everything possible to ensure that similar situations will not arise again in the future.”

Photos Bristol Zoo Gardens

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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