We've been to Safari Zoo in Cumbria this week. We won't be going back any time soon. Read on to find out why you should save your money and go elsewhere.
**scroll to the bottom for photos
I wasn't going to post this but I thought people need to know the truth. As you are all aware I do not sugar coat any of my visits and what you see and read is 100% genuine and my own words based on my own experience. Read my Facebook post for more of the same reviews from visitors.
After the scandal a few years ago, with lots of animals dying (over 400 in the space of 3 years) and underage "zookeepers", the zoo was bought out and is now run by different people (apparently) , so we thought we would give it a go and see what improvements have been made.
We thought we had got a bargain. We paid £10 per person, which got us entry and an opportunity to hand feed giraffes and lemurs. (Entry for the 5 of us would normally be around £100) So far, so good. Plus it meant we could check out the zoo without spending a fortune.
First up, was the giraffe feeding. After queueing for around 20 minutes, we were given 3 small pieces of carrot each and got to spend seconds with the giraffe, no interaction from the "Keeper" who to be honest looked like he was ready to go home because he clearly didn't want to be there. We have been to lots of zoos over the years and the keepers at other zoos are clearly professionals who have spent years training and learning about certain animals and they pass on some info to you when you talk to them. The giraffes were stressed, twisting their necks and trying to run, which they cant do because the enclosure is too small.
Next, lemur feeding. This time, no queue. Just a free for all and we weren't asked to show our booking details. No signs to tell you where to go, no staff to ask until another staff member dealing with the feedings appeared and again wasn't comfortable around people and didn't speak. When you have kids excited to be doing something like this, this is the opportunity to be talking about the animals and getting them interested in finding out more. So much potential, wasted.
After this, we had a wander around the rest of the zoo.
Amongst other animals, we saw...
2 lions in an enclosure that looked too small for them, no enrichment, nothing for them to climb, the male lion just stood watching the traffic go past on the main road (yes it is that close) just no thought or effort has gone into anything with this place.
A jaguar that wouldn't stop pacing and looked stressed, again in an enclosure too small with no enrichment.
A few rhinos, 2 zebras and a solitary wildebeest, in a dust filled enclosure. (Where's the grass?) No its not because it is winter, that is a shitty excuse. We have been to other zoos, with the same animals that have had grass all year round.
The final straw (or so we thought) was the world's loneliest meerkat. Just one, completely on it's own, shivering under a heat lamp, so desperate for attention and fresh drinking water, that we felt bad leaving it there. It was so lonely and just wanted attention, it had the dirtiest drinking water, no food, no enrichment and from what I could see no tunnels .
What turned out to be the final straw, was the reindeer enclosure. After you make your way past lots of weeds and rubbish, you find them. They looked beyond miserable, but then any animal would be, given the choice of a bare concrete indoor area, or some dust outdoors. Again no enrichment, very little hay for them to lay on and the two young deer were struggling to walk after getting up from the concrete flooring. The area they were kept in had random tat lying around, which was a clear health and safety hazard. Hand washing areas were a disgrace and in fact one of them you couldn't use because it was rotten and the towel dispenser was hanging of the wall. No sanitizer in any of the dispensers.
One breath of the stench of dirty bear enclosures and we immediately left. I have no idea how on earth the council have given them the go ahead to serve food and drinks from here.
The play area was closed due to flooding. There were a couple of small muddy patches. No sign of flooding.
The one thing that was in good condition and seemed well looked after was the HUGE gift shop. Seriously, this is one of the biggest gift shops I have ever seen and, other than the feeding sessions, was the only place we saw any staff. If they put more effort into the animals and enclosures instead of the gift shop then maybe these poor animals wouldn't be suffering.
We also walked past an enclosure that was unlocked and open , not just the first gate but all of them leading into what I think was the Rhino or Giraffe space. Can you imagine if a young kid had spotted it. Come on you have responsibilities not only to the animals but to the public you are charging entry to come into this dump. The place was dirty, signage was past it's best and they had displays for kids to read that were so dirty you could hardly read them. The place stinks and is not being cleaned properly either, the enclosures should be cleaned regularly and washed down which is clearly not being done. I can still smell the stench now.
This place is a million miles away from being ready to call themselves a zoo, I truly hope the animals find homes elsewhere and can live a better life away from this shambles. I am horrified that the people running this place think this is ok. It was bad enough to see numerous health and safety hazards around the place but letting the animals suffer, now that is just a step too far. I have submitted reports to the relevant people. The council should also be ashamed of themselves for giving them a licence in the first place and should be carrying out regular checks on the site.
Have you visited since the change of ownership? If so, let us know what you thought.
Head over to our Socials to watch videos of this "zoo"