herald

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Tayto Park no longer giving details of animal deaths to zoo authority

Barn Owls at Tayto Park. Photo: Patrick Bolger Photography
Barn Owls at Tayto Park. Photo: Patrick Bolger Photography

Tayto Park has stopped providing the zoo licensing authority with copies of records showing the number of animals that die in its care each year, in a move that prevents the public from accessing the information.

The theme park unsuccessfully sought to prevent the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) from publishing these records in 2017, claiming that the information would damage its business and result in negative publicity.

It has now emerged that Tayto Park discontinued the practice of furnishing the NPWS with records containing details of animal deaths at the zoo.

A spokesperson for the park said the change was adopted following an "internal review."

They said the decision was unrelated to their previous concerns about negative publicity.

Prior to the decision, NPWS officials were provided with copies of animal censuses during annual inspections carried out as part of the zoo licensing process.

They can now examine the records on site, but are not provided with a copy.

This means the Government agency does not hold a copy of the animal inventory, and it therefore cannot be accessed by the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sensationalist

A spokesperson for Dublin Zoo said that it "will continue to supply a copy of its census to the NPWS".

It also publishes census information in its annual report.

Fota Wildlife Park also publishes animal census data in its annual report.

In its bid to prevent the release of data under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Tayto Park said "previous sensationalist reporting" had impacted its business.

The visitor attraction in Meath made headlines in 2012 when an NPWS inspection identified "inadequate enclosures", "inappropriate breeding", "overweight animals", and "high levels of aggression and stress" at the zoo.

It was banned from adding any new animals to its collection as a result of the concerns.

The ban was lifted after five months, but was reinstated in November 2013 after another inspection noted "great disappointment" at a lack of progress on issues highlighted.

A spokesperson for the National Animal Rights Association described the retention of census documents as a "cover-up", and said it would be asking TDs to raise the issue.

A spokesperson for Tayto Park said the change would not impact on transparency.

"The change in practice was due to an internal review and subsequent improvement of our records," she said.

"We provided the inventory, along with these new documents, for review by the inspectors," she said.

"Upon review… the zoo inspectors commented in the report that Tayto Park was a 'well-run operation' and 'there were no concerns noted on review of the animal stock lists'."

Records released under the FOI Act revealed that 30 animals - 7.9pc of its collection - died in 2016.

This fell to 6.7pc the following year.

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