But Who Will Play the Rhino?

First of all, I know conservationists will fault me for this, but anyone else think we should abolish zoos?  They’re kind of loci of horror these days, more often than not.  I mean, at the very least, Sea World has to go.

On that note, though, someone please write a dramatic opera about this utter clusterfuck:

The founder of a zoo where almost 500 animals died bragged that his management style was better than “textbook” weeks before government inspectors condemned his practices.

Inspectors at South Lakes Safari Zoo, in Cumbria, found that 486 of its animals had died as a result of mistreatment between December 2013 and September 2016, a report said yesterday.

Shortly before the inspection David Gill, 55, the owner, said that the recent birth of a baby rhino was a “fitting tribute to my work and expertise in zoo animal management”.

He wrote on Facebook in December that he had enjoyed “huge success”, having “always pursued a different style of management to the norm”.

“I wish many other zoos would watch and learn from our example as it is not worth copying books and guidelines if they don’t actually work,” he added. “In my opinion you simply do not listen to people who have had far less success than you in any area of life.”

Inspectors have recommended that Mr Gill’s application for licence renewal be rejected and called on Barrow council to consider prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act.

In 1997 Mr Gill was found guilty of endangering the public after a white rhino escaped from its enclosure. The animal fell down a ravine and had to be shot. In the same year a Sunday newspaper reported that he was having an affair with a teenage zoo hand, Shelley Goodwin, who had left school at 16 and began looking after his kangaroos.

His wife left him, taking their two children, and Mr Gill and Ms Goodwin married. They have since separated. In 2001 a pregnant zoo keeper who incurred Mr Gill’s wrath when she expressed fears about feeding lions was awarded £30,000 in compensation.

Mr Gill’s personal life was given another public airing in 2008 during the trial of a jilted husband who slashed the zoo owner’s neck when he discovered him in bed with his wife.

Richard Creary, then 38, attacked Mr Gill, who fled in his Ferrari dressed only in his pyjamas. Creary was later jailed for five years. In 2014 Mr Gill was forced to apologise after saying that the legalisation of gay marriage signalled the end of the world, and that gay lifestyle was “abnormal” and “anti-natural”.

Last year his zoo was fined £297,500 after a keeper, Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled to death by a Sumatran tiger in 2013. Ms McClay’s boyfriend, David Shaw, 27, told The Times that she was considering setting up a trade union at the zoo because of a “cloud of fear” that existed for staff.

“Sarah and I spent some time looking to implement trade union,” he said. “We were looking towards suitable trade unions because the staff were mistreated at the time — the staff were managed by fear.”

Ms McClay’s brother, Stephen, 31, who lives in London, said: “It absolutely baffles me that anyone would still visit the zoo after my sister died there and now that this report about the conditions has emerged people must surely be put off visiting.

“Had he done the right thing four years ago and stepped down after an employee died on his watch, the animal mistreatment over the past four years at least could have been avoided.”

The zoo was awarded a six-year licence to operate in June 2010 and the council received an application for renewal from Mr Gill in January 2016.

The council rejected the application in July, agreeing with inspectors that he was “not a fit and suitable person” to manage the zoo.

However, the law dictates that if the licence holder reapplies for a new licence, the existing licence continues in force until the application has been processed or withdrawn.

Mr Gill, who remains the licence holder, handed over the responsibility of managing the zoo to Cumbria Zoo Company Limited.

Mr Gill’s lawyer said that his client believes it would be “inappropriate to comment” during the regulatory and legal process.

Barrow council will decide on the renewal of the zoo’s licence on Monday.

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