Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Highland Wildlife Park Not Being Prosecuted For Monkey Deaths

Zoo bosses will not face prosecution after three snow monkeys were killed during in-fighting by rival troupes at the Highland Wildlife Park.

An animal welfare group had asked Northern Constabulary and Highland Council to investigate the deaths of the Japanese Macaques which occurred at the attraction owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) in Feburary, earlier this year.

A dozen snow monkeys arrived at the park near Kincraig just over a year ago as part of plans by the RZSS to bring more exotic creatures to the park and increase visitor numbers.

The arrival of a second troupe in the purpose-built enclosure is being blamed for the deaths which animal welfare groups had claimed were avoidable.

Advocates for Animals said that an alpha male from one group had been killed, they claim another monkey drowned in a lake in their enclosure and a third had to be euthanased by vets after being badly injured.

Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL) had made an official complaint to Aviemore police station and to the council over the incident.

They have now been informed that Scottish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) who had been called in by police to investigate following their complaint, will not be taking the matter any further.

John Robins of ACAL said: "I was amazed to learn that the Scottish SPCA had decided against reporting such serious incidents to the procurator fiscal.

"This is one of the worst cases of avoidable suffering caused to zoo animals that I have seen in 28 years in this job.

"Zoo staff knowingly and quite deliberately put these monkeys into a life or death situation fully aware that the animals were fenced in and could not escape."

Mr Robins also said that he was greatly concerned that the SSPCA appeared to have been left to conduct the investigation on their own.

He added: "The SSPCA may feel it important to maintain a good working relationship with the Highland Wildlife Park in order to facilitate future inspections and visits to the facility and they could be satisfied by assurances that such incidents will not recur.

"If that is the case it quite frankly is not good enough."

He said that the owners of Highland Wildlife Park had also recently placed advertising in SSPCA publications also raising an element of doubt as to the impartiality of this investigation.

"I find it disturbing that charitable money donated by the public is being used to conduct investigations into allegations of criminal offences when such investigations are the responsibility of the police," said Mr Robins.

A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: "Our investigation concluded that all matters raised in the complaint were animal welfare issues, which were the remit of the SSPCA.

"Chief Superintendant Mike Flynn from the SSPCA attended at the Highland Wildlife Park on July 10 to carry out his investigation, accompanied by a Highland Council animal health officer and a vet.

"Our enquiries concluded that there was no crime committed and our involvement ceased."

The RZSS declined to comment to the "Strathy" following the announcement. They previously confirmed the deaths of the three monkeys earlier this month when the complaint was made to police.

A RZSS spokesman said at the time: "Primates are extremely unpredictable and conflict can happen at any time, whether it is within their existing group or when they are introduced to another group.

"This behaviour happens regularly in the wild and intervening would have resulted in serious repercussions for the social structure and long-term future of the group.

"A third group has also been recently introduced and the group, as a whole, has settled down. Bearing in mind the complexities involved with introducing groups of primates from different zoo collections, we are satisfied with the outcome. We will continue to monitor the group and their long-term welfare remains our priority."

Story here.

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