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19 June 2009
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Department of Labour have today given Whangarei’s Zion Wildlife Gardens approval to reopen to the public.
The park was temporarily closed on 29 May following the death of a keeper. It had been ordered closed until MAF was satisfied it could consistently comply with the animal welfare, process and enclosure requirements for zoos and wildlife parks.
Since the closure, the park has worked hard to ensure compliance, particularly around its enclosures. MAF and the Department of Labour have continued to monitor both work on the enclosures and the condition of the animals. MAF is satisfied that the welfare of the animals is not compromised.
As Zion Wildlife Gardens have now complied with MAF requirements regarding the provision of separation facilities in all the big cat enclosures, the Department of Labour has issued notices to prevent staff from having direct contact with adult lions, tigers, and leopards.
Zoos and wildlife parks in New Zealand are subject to legal requirements set out in the Containment Facilities Standard for Zoo Animals:
MAF and the Department of Labour were well through a scheduled review of this standard at the time of last month’s incident. This review includes the guidelines for close animal contact and ‘encounters’ but was not prompted by any specific event. As part of the standard review, MAF is working closely with New Zealand’s zoo industry and international experts in the field. The zoo standard review will be informed by the outcomes of any MAF or Department of Labour investigations.
The Department of Labour investigation into the death of the keeper is ongoing. There will be no further comment made by either MAF or the Department of Labour at this time.