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Zookeeper Alan Cairns
tells BBC NI's David Dunseath about the penguin attack
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 12:40 GMT
Penguin thrown to the lions
King penguins
The penguins were attacked with an iron bar
Police in Northern Ireland are investigating a break-in at Belfast Zoo in which penguins were attacked.

Several of the birds were struck in their enclosure with an iron bar.

One penguin was then taken and thrown into the lions' den and killed.

The break-in happened on Wednesday at the zoo on the Antrim Road in the north of the city.


Not only had these people removed the penguin from the enclosure but they had thrown it into the lions' cage

Zookeeper Alan Cairns

Alan Cairns, a senior keeper at the zoo, said beer cans had been found at the scene and there was a suspicion that the vandals may have been drinking or even on drugs.

He said said zoo workers were horrified by the scene that greeted them when the attack was discovered.

"Unfortunately we were horrified to find that not only had these people removed the penguin from the enclosure but they had thrown it into the lions' cage," he said.

"These penguins were reared from eggs by our staff.

"It's just absolutely traumatic, I don't know what to say."

The assistant manager of the zoo, Mark Challis, said it would take some days before the behaviour of the remaining penguins returned to normal.

"They are all over the place, they really haven't got a clue what's going on," he said.

The police have appealed for anyone with information about the incident to contact them.

Two members of the public have each offered a reward of 500 for information leading to the conviction of the vandals.

Chipmunk decapitated

This is the second time this week an incident of animal cruelty has been reported.

On Monday a training centre in Londonderry for people with special needs was attacked by vandals.

They decapitated a chipmunk and stole three others from the Ashbrook vocational centre.

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See also:

07 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
P-p-p-pick out a penguin
06 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Lean times in the Antarctic
02 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Penguin treated for depression
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