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Anger as six lions are put down but Longleat defends its decision

Lions at Longleat

Lions at Longleat

LONGLEAT Safari Park has come under fire for putting down six of its lions – but has defended its decision.

The story broke after a whistleblower – believed to be a member of staff – leaked the news of the six lions being put down and claiming staff were in tears as a result of the decision to cull the lions.

The decision brought an angry reaction from people on Facebook and Twitter as well extensive coverage in the national press.

But Longleat has said the lions were suffering from ‘behaviour problems’ and it was “the only humane option on welfare grounds.”

Four of the lions were culled as a result of a ‘development deficiency’ says the safari park, which meant they suffered from behavioural problems which often made them overly aggressive.

In addition, two further lions were put down after sustaining substantial injuries after being attacked by the lions with behavioural issues.

When news of the culling broke on Sunday, many people took to social media sites to attack the safari park’s decision and asked why the lions had not been rehomed to another zoo.

On Twitter Diane Muzio said, “I have lost respect for your park which my family used to love visiting. Rehoming the lion family should have been priority.”

However, in a statement issued on Monday morning Longleat said, “It would not have been responsible to translocate these animals to another collection, nor would any responsible zoological collection accept this particular group of lions, with the known high associated risks of neurological disorders and other genetically related health issues being passed on to later generations.”

The lions with over aggressive behaviour who were culled were the offspring of a lion called Louisa, who was also culled and also suffered from neurological issues.

This raised more concern for many on Facebook with Nazia Silentium commenting, “Why would an animal with known health defects and incestuous lineage be allowed to breed?” In response, Longleat distanced themselves from blame claiming the issues were as a result of inbreeding before she was at Longleat.

They said, “Reviewing the genetic lineage of Louisa and her cubs it was found both Louisa’s parents exhibited relatively high levels of inbreeding, prior to arrival, at a grand parentage level and great-grand parentage level. The consistent link with all these neurological developmental disorders has been Louisa and this was attributed to her confused and poorly managed genetic history prior to her arrival at Longleat.”

Four of the six lions including Louisa were put down as a result of the neurological developmental disorder with a further two put down as a result of injuries sustained by Louisa and her ‘over-aggressive’ offspring including a lion called Henry who suffered substantial injuries, said Longleat.

“Henry was a separate case, and his injuries were a result of aggression from both his brother and Louisa, who attacked him on the 7th January,” said the safari park. “His wounds were severe, and despite veterinary review and management, it was decided euthanasia was the only humane option on welfare grounds.

“These decisions involve communication with all of our current staff, management team and with independent external ethical reviews undertaken to ensure we are consistent with best practice.”