Zoo Sparks Fury For Letting Children Play Tug Of War With Tiger And Lion
The experience at Dartmoor Zoological Gardens is aimed at a 'maximum of 3 adults and 1 child (aged 8-12)', who each pay £15, the game sees zoo visitors go up against a male tiger, Dragan, or a male lion, Jasiri.
Animal charity Born Free shared a screenshot of the zoo's Facebook post promoting the experience, tweeting: "@.DartmoorZoo to offer 'Human vs Beast Experience' this February half-term. Is a tug of war game with a lion or tiger really the way to inspire respect for these animals? RT to urge the zoo to rethink this! #Don'tBuyCaptivity #KeepWildlifeinTheWild."
Many Twitter users condemned the 'disgusting' challenge as 'misguided and embarrassing'.
One commented: "@DartmoorZoo you should promote conservation and educate the public about the plight of animals and how we need to protect them. This shows a total disregard of what you should stand for and you play a pivotal role in educating people."
.@DartmoorZoo to offer 'Human vs Beast Experience' this February half-term. Is a tug of war game with a lion or tiger really the way to inspire respect for these animals? RT to urge the zoo to rethink this! #DontBuyCaptivity #KeepWildlifeInTheWild :tiger: pic.twitter.com/7LvnjmAoZQ
- Born Free Foundation (@BornFreeFDN) February 18, 2019
Another person said: "Dartmoor Zoo, this is appalling. If you start setting people against animals, I seriously hope you are sued for animal cruelty, and you have your zoo licence revoked. You would deserve nothing less."
A third added: "Dartmoor zoo should be ashamed of themselves. Please explain how this is conservation allowing people near WILD ANIMALS. It's not! It's a money grabbing scheme at the animals' expense."
Someone else argued it wasn't an appropriate activity for kids, writing: "Just when I think the pointlessness and stupidness within zoos can't get any more - I see something like this! £15 a time to put your child at risk to a bored, frustrated and probably hungry big cat. Unbelievable."
However, the zoo's CEO Benjamin Mee - who bought the zoo in August 2006 and wrote a book about his experiences, which was later turned into 2011 Matt Damon film We Bought a Zoo - has argued both the public and the lions 'like it' and the activity is 'regarded as really good enrichment for the animals, whether the public are involved or not'.
Senior zoo keeper Simon Moore also claimed this type of experience is 'essential' for the animals.
"In captivity, its essential for us to try to mimic the behaviours to create the best welfare possible," he said in a statement, according to the Daily Mail.
He continued to say the tug-of-war challenge would help create a form of heightened exercise for the big cats, explaining: "This simulates the natural hunting and feeding behaviour of both species, where any feeds would be proceeded by the exertions involved in hunting down, restraining and killing a prey animal. For the lions it additionally reflects the competition between members of the pride for their share of the kill.
"The welfare of the animals is constantly assessed by the keepers monitoring the experience. They keep a close eye on physical effects of the exercise to ensure that animals are not over-exerting themselves or otherwise at risk of physical damage. The activity had to be approved by the Ethics Committee at the Zoo.
"In addition, the activity is fully risk assessed, with the human participants receiving a Health and Safety briefing prior to the event. The keeper assigned to supervise the human part of the experience will also be working to ensure that the rope-pull itself is undertaken in a safe manner for the humans and animals involved."
Featured Image Credit: Dartmoor Zoological Gardens