The Guardian revealed in July that drunken visitors poured beer over a tiger at the zoo, stripped off at the penguin pool and broke the glass on a snake enclosure. Sources at the zoo raised concerns over the impact on animals' sleep and stress levels during Zoo Lates events, which draw about 6,000 partygoers regularly on Friday nights in the summer and raise pounds 800,000 annually for the zoo.
In a letter sent to David Field, zoological director at the Zoological Society of
The zoo should immediately cease holding the events, say signatories to the letter, who include
"Zoos should be responsible for the safety of the animals in their care," they write. "Allowing these late-night events to continue when members of the public have claimed to see butterflies being crushed on the ground and birds in the aviary being 'accidentally' punched does not demonstrate adequate consideration for animal welfare."
The Guardian saw crowds shouting in the gorilla enclosure, below signs saying "Respect our home, be thoughtful, be quiet, be kind", and overheard a man asking a zookeeper, "which penguin can I fight?" The nights finish with a loud cabaret metres from the enclosures of apes and other primates.
Bekhechi said that if the zoo really cared about animals it would not host another season of Zoo Lates. "Plying thousands of people with alcohol on what is actively promoted by the zoo as a 'wild night out' might be a good fundraiser for the
Field said: "We can only reiterate that animal welfare is our top priority at all times. We go to great lengths to ensure the normal routines and behaviour of our animals are not compromised by Zoo Lates, and visitor behaviour is monitored and managed carefully."
The welfare of animals and visitor safety at Zoo Lates is being investigated by Westminster council, which issues the zoo's licences. A petition for ending the events got nearly 75,000 signatures.
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