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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Activists welcome zoo closure
Lions at Glasgow Zoo
The zoo is due to close in September
Campaigners have urged the managers of Glasgow Zoo to abandon plans to create a new animal-based visitor attraction.

Advocates for Animals welcomed the announcement that the zoo is to close in September after years of financial problems.

However, campaigns director Ross Minett was opposed to plans to open a new attraction in the city after selling off land at the Calderpark site.

He told BBC News Online Scotland: "We would be opposed to any of the present management being involved in any animal-based attraction again.

"I think they have proven their incompetence.

"When you take on the responsibility of caring for these wild animals you have a responsibility to look after them in an appropriate manner.

We are very pleased that at long last they have admitted that it doesn't have a viable future
Ross Minett
Advocates for Animals
"We feel that they have failed in this responsibility and should not be allowed to set up any animal-based facility in the future."

However, the claims met with an angry response from the zoo, which said none of the organisation's allegations had been substantiated.

Mr Minett said the decision to close the zoo, which opened in 1947, was "long overdue".

"We are very pleased that at long last they have admitted that it doesn't have a viable future," he said.

Advocates for Animals said that the financial situation at the zoo had left management unable to fully provide for the animals' physical and mental needs.

The group produced a report last year criticising conditions at the zoo.

Mr Minett said the closure announcement had been expected because the facility would not meet the criteria for new licences which come into effect in September.

Long-term care

"This has pre-empted them failing to comply with legislation," he said.

However, zoo spokeswoman Shena Campbell rejected the organisation's claims.

"Not one of their allegations has been upheld," she said.

"They have never made any complaint direct to the zoo, they only made them to the politicians and the media, so you have to question the integrity of that approach."

She pointed out that the Scottish SPCA and the council's inspectors had visited the zoo last week and again confirmed that there were no concerns about the welfare of the animals.

The zoo, which is run by the Zoological Society of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, has struggled with cash problems for years.

Inspectors said animals at the zoo were not suffering.

Glasgow Zoo exhibit
Inspectors said animals at the zoo were not suffering
It was decided to sell off part of the site for housing in 1999, but progress has been delayed due to a planning inquiry.

It is hoped that the charity will be left with enough money to fund a new animal-based visitor attraction once the sale eventually goes through.

Zoological Society chairman Bill Smith stressed that the zoo's financial problems had not affected the welfare of the animals in any way.

"It remains the society's desire to provide the citizens of Glasgow with an animal-based visitor attraction in which animal welfare is not compromised and where they and visitors to the city can experience animals first hand and learn from keepers who are passionate about sharing their experiences and knowledge," he said.

However, Glasgow Zoo's chief executive Roger Edwards warned it may be possible that a charity could not succeed in such a project in the current political and economic environment.

"There is not a shadow of doubt that an amenity in which the city's children and adults can learn more about animals is needed now more than ever before," he said.

"The loss of such an amenity will make Glasgow the poorer - in terms of education, a resource for people seeking advice on animal matters, an amenity for visitors to the city and the contribution Glasgow can make to international conservation."

He said it might only be able to run such a facility under local authority control.

Glasgow City Council said it had no plans to become involved in running any new attraction at the zoo site.

The local authority also said that regular inspections had shown that none of the animals were suffering, although the fabric of the zoo was deteriorating.

The Scottish SPCA said an independent expert had examined the zoo in the wake of the animal welfare allegations and found no physical problems with any of the animals.

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