11 Dec 2013

Coroner calls for zoo regulation reform

3:36 pm on 11 December 2013

A Coroner has called for the reform of the regulations governing zoos following the death of a keeper at the Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei.

Brandt Shortland has released his inquest report on the death of Clifford (Dalu) MnCube, who was mauled to death by a tiger in May 2009.

Mr Shortland says the laws relating to zoos are complex and at times unworkable, involving a number of statutes and government ministries.

The inquest heard evidence that Zion was struggling to comply with standards at the time of the fatality and this was compounded by a lack of money and conflict between operator Patricia Busch and her son Craig Busch, known as the 'Lion Man'.

Mr Shortland said the law prohibited direct contact between keepers and big cats, yet a loophole allowed this if it was approved by an authorised animal handler - which Mr MnCube was.

The Coroner said the zoo industry believed regulations repealed in 2003 were more effective at managing risks than current legislation, which divides responsibility for safety between the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.