Thursday, June 13th, 2013
In 2009, Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm was exposed for links with the Great British Circus as a CAPS investigator uncovered an ongoing agreement that the zoo was breeding animals for the circus’ owner. As a result of the scandal Noah’s Ark was kicked out of industry body, BIAZA, for “bringing the association into disrepute”. But it seems that the zoo has not learned its lesson and, in recent weeks, has done business with another notorious circus trainer, Jim Clubb, who owns the animal entertainment company, Amazing Animals. Two lions have been sent from Clubb to the zoo in the last week, raising new concerns over the zoo’s continued connection with the performing animal industry.
Clubb and his business hit the headlines in late 2012 for all the wrong reasons as a CAPS and LionAid exposé revealed that white lion cubs supplied to him by West Midland Safari Park had been trained up and shipped out to a travelling circus in Japan. This is in spite of the fact the use of wild animals in circuses in this country is due to be banned in the coming years as a result of long-term expert, public and parliamentary opposition to the practice.
News reports in recent days confirmed that two female lions had been supplied to Noah’s Ark by Clubb’s business, which also goes by the name “Heythrop Zoological Gardens” despite not being licensed as a zoo under Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and thus not being subject to the same inspection regime and legal requirements as licensed premises.
Worryingly, news reports went on to state that “Noah’s Ark will set up a breeding program for the lions in the future, keeping one male and female pair and moving the second pair to another zoo”. It is unclear whether the zoo has made any agreement with Clubb, as it previously had with the Great British Circus’ proprietor, over ownership of any cubs born in the future or as to where the pair of lions that the zoo is keen to dispose of will be sent. [See update below]
Said CAPS Director, Liz Tyson:
“It is of great concern to see that links between Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm and the performing animal industry are still going strong, despite being caught out in the past. Our work has uncovered links between the zoo industry and the circus industry on a number of occasions – something which appears to fly in the face of the idea that zoos are supposedly focused upon conservation of biodiversity. This is not to mention the ethical concerns of a zoo carrying out transactions with companies which so openly exploit animals for the entertainment industry”.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has also come under criticism from leading animal charities over its plans to establish a new elephant exhibit at the zoo. Leading elephant experts demanded that the zoo withdraw claims that the installation would be a “sanctuary” and stated that they were “very suspicious whether NAZF operators have any understanding of even the basics of elephant ecology and the depth and complexity of elephants’ needs”. It has long been agreed that elephants are particularly unsuited to life in captivity and Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm’s plans to breed the animals have led to widespread concern.
Update 22nd June 2013: The owner of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has informed CAPS that no agreement had been made with Jim Clubb in this instance to send cubs back to the trainer. CAPS remains concerned to learn, however, that Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm will not rule out working with the animal trainer again in the future, saying: “In our view Mr Clubb’s career and animal training doesn’t preclude Heythrop from managing a healthy group of animals and being able to support the zoo community as they do. I don’t know of the details of any circus links Mr Clubb may or may not have as that is his business, but this isn’t something we are involved with”.
Given that Amazing Animals has long provided animals to the circus industry and to perform in films and TV, the suggestion that Noah’s Ark proprietors do not know anything about this side of Clubb’s business appears to be unlikely.
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