Tayto Park wants zoo deaths kept a secret due to 'negative press'
Tayto Park has sought to prevent the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht releasing details of animal deaths at its zoo - because it would damage its business and result in negative publicity.
The department, the licensing authority for Irish zoos, has published information about animal mortality rates at Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park, which revealed 227 animals died at those facilities in 2015.
However, Tayto Park has taken steps to prevent the release of data about its own animal collection, writing to the department objecting to the publication of the statistics.
The Co Meath amusement park previously made headlines when a 2012 inspection by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) identified "inadequate enclosures", "inappropriate breeding", "overweight animals" and "high levels of aggression and stress" at its zoo.
As a result, the crisp-themed attraction was banned from adding animals to its zoo.
The ban was lifted after five months but reinstated in November 2013 after another inspection reported "great disappointment" at a lack of progress on issues previously highlighted.
The park's animal manager, Lee Donohoe, alluded to the previous coverage in a letter to the department on September 13, 2017, now released under the Freedom of Information Act.
"In our own business, we can point to previous sensationalist reporting about our zoo collection, resulting in a drop in annual members and loss of corporate customers," it read.
"All those cited recent negative articles about the zoo. As such, and I'm sure you agree, that it can't be denied that negative press has the potential to inhibit and damage a business.
"Therefore, we believe that the public interest would be better served as a whole by not releasing this document."
The move to prevent the publication has been criticised by the National Animal Rights Association (NARA).
"I am shocked and appalled that Tayto Park are going to such lengths," said the NARA's Laura Broxson.
"Considering they were banned from acquiring additional animals in the past, I would be extremely concerned for the health and safety of the animals there now. They shouldn't be withholding such crucial information from the public. What are they afraid to expose?"
Tayto Park's general manager Charles Coyle refused to comment when asked how many animals died at the zoo in recent years, but said it had no concerns regarding mortality rates.
"We believe reporting on mortality rates without providing context can be misleading," he added.