Having been prosecuted for failing to protect their employees, a private zoo in the UK will have to fork out £400,000 ($574,000) which includes a fine relating to an earlier matter. The £400,000 and includes a fine of £255,000 for health and safety breaches which led to the death of one of its zoo keepers, Miss McClay (see photo below) who has the appearance of being a charming and pleasant lady. The zoo also has to pay £150,000 prosecution costs.
This is a very large sum of money and I wonder if a zoo of this size can afford to pay it. I wonder whether they will be declared insolvent (effectively bankruptcy). Probably not but it’ll punch a massive hole in their balance sheet. Far more importantly is the loss of life.
It has been assessed that the root cause of the problem was a defective bolt operating a door which would have separated a Sumatran tiger from Miss McClay. That, as I understand it, is the core issue in this story.
I say that the root cause of the problem was a defective bolt which allowed a door to be opened which allowed a Sumatran tiger to maul the zookeeper to death. The Daily Mail newspaper says that it could not be said if the damage to the bolt had occurred before the fatality. I’m not quite sure what that means but it would seem that the paper is covering their back, which I understand. I am doing likewise.
The private zoo in question is the South Lakes Safari Zoo. They admitted, I presume through their proprietor, Mr Gill, that they had contravened the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to the tragedy.
Further, since the tragic killing of Miss McClay, the Sumatran tiger in question has died. The reason given is that Padang died due to “welfare complications arising from his age”. From that I take it that he died of old age but I wonder whether his death is in anyway associated or connected with this tragic story.
Being somewhat cynical about the behaviour of human beings, I would cautiously suggest that Padang might have been put down because he killed the zookeeper but I may well be very wrong in that assessment.
The owner of the zoo is very remorseful about what happened and in a statement Mr Gill said:
“Sarah McClay was a dedicated and valued member of the animal caring staff at the Park… Her enthusiasm and friendly character were appreciated by everyone she met.. Sarah was committed to the aims of the park, to conservation and to preservation of rare species as seen for example in the red squirrel project she helped to develop and run.. Her tragic and untimely death has affected all of us at the park and she is greatly missed.. On behalf of myself and everyone at the park I wish to convey our condolences to Mr Shaw, Fiona McClay and all of Sarah’s family and friends.”
What’s the moral of this story? Be vigilant about maintenance. Be vigilant about security of visitors and of staff. Don’t make any presumptions and don’t become in any way sloppy. It only takes a very minor problem such as a defective bolt on an internal door in a cage to result in the tragic death of a person and a massive fine for a private zoo owner. Cincinnati Zoo had a similar lapse of vigilance which cost the life of a wonderful gorilla.