Carrie Symond’s charity safari park lost five animals in as many months

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Carrie Symond’s charity safari park lost five animals in as many months: dangerous bear and two deer belonged to zoo refugees … and a cat native to India is STILL missing

  • Charity owned zoo where Carrie Symonds works has had 5 escapes in five months
  • The escapes were not made public by Hythe Zoo in Kent or by the council
  • Dangerous bear got out in August after his keeper failed to close a gate properly

Five animals escaped in just five months last year at a charity zoo where Boris Johnson’s fiancé Carrie Symonds works, the Mail can reveal.

Among them was a spectacled bear – a dangerous category 1 animal.

A Port Lympne Safari Park inspection report also reveals that a rusty spotted cat native to India is roaming free nine months later.

The escapes were not made public by the Hythe zoo in Kent, reopening next week, or the local council.

Five animals escaped in just five months last year at a charity zoo where Boris Johnson's fiancé Carrie Symonds works, the Mail can reveal.  She is pictured with owner Damian Aspinall

Five animals escaped in just five months last year at a charity zoo where Boris Johnson’s fiancé Carrie Symonds works, the Mail can reveal. She is pictured with owner Damian Aspinall

The news raises safety concerns as the Charity Commission begins a legal investigation into the Aspinall Foundation and its sister organization, Howletts Wild Animal Trust, which runs the park.

The five refugees were listed in the latest informal inspection report for Port Lympne, obtained through a freedom of information request.

Two female pig deer escaped on March 5 after a fence failed. One was injured and had to be put down.

A South American jungle cat named Margay climbed out of its enclosure on May 11.

A rust-stained cat escaped through a hole in its enclosure made by a rat on July 11.

The creatures that came out

Spectacled bear

Named for light rings around their eyes, the only bear in South America is classified as a Category 1 threat by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

Up to 6ft they can kill animals the size of a cow. One escaped from Port Lympne after a gate was not properly closed.

The only bear in South America is classified as a Category 1 threat by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976

The only bear in South America is classified as a Category 1 threat by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976

The only bear in South America is classified as a Category 1 threat by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976

Margay

Known in his native Brazil as the ‘fury cat’, it lives in trees where it catches rodents, lizards and birds. A margay climbed out of the zoo enclosure.

A South American jungle cat named Margay climbed out of its enclosure on May 11

A South American jungle cat named Margay climbed out of its enclosure on May 11

A South American jungle cat named Margay climbed out of its enclosure on May 11

Rusty spotted cat

These fierce hunters from the forests of India are smaller than a domestic cat.

One is on the run after stepping through a hole in his pen made by a rat.

A rust-stained cat escaped through a hole in the enclosure made by a rat on July 11

A rust-stained cat escaped through a hole in the enclosure made by a rat on July 11

A rust-stained cat escaped through a hole in the enclosure made by a rat on July 11

Hog deer

Named after their habit of running like a boar through the bush in Myanmar and Thailand. After two came through a gate, one was put down.

Two female pig deer escaped on March 5 after a fence failed.  One was injured and had to be put down

Two female pig deer escaped on March 5 after a fence failed.  One was injured and had to be put down

Two female pig deer escaped on March 5 after a fence failed. One was injured and had to be put down

And a spectacled bear got out on August 9 after his keeper failed to close a gate properly. It was enticed with feed pellets and the goalkeeper was disciplined.

Port Lympne said the rust-stained cat posed no threat to humans. Although it has not been recaptured, it has been seen on cameras in the park.

The zoo, which conducts escape drills four times a year, added that Folkestone and Hythe City Council was told every time an animal came out.

The Aspinall Foundation has hired Miss Symonds as its director of communications this year.

Last week, the Mail shared how the Charity Commission was investigating allegations of financial mismanagement, including using charity funds to help owner Damian Aspinall live for just £ 2,500 a month in a 30-room mansion with hundreds of thousands of pounds to his family.

Spread over 600 hectares, Port Lympne has more than 900 animals of 75 species.

The last full inspection in 2019 praised its ‘very high animal care standards’ and ‘excellent’ conservation work.

But caretakers have been killed, including two who died when they were crushed by elephants in 1984 and 2000.

There have been other escapes as well. In 2015, visitors were trapped in cafes when a baboon got out. In 2017, a cheetah walked around Port Lympne for nearly half an hour while families were in hiding.

In 2018, a Howletts cheetah escaped, scaring a herd of deer that stomped. One died and the other had to be put down.

Last night, the trust insisted that it operated to ‘the highest livestock standards’, citing the record breeding 300 tigers and twice as many African elephants than the rest of the UK zoos.

Howletts CEO Tony Kelly said he was “extremely proud” of his work, adding, “As world-leading breeding reserves, animal safety and welfare are paramount and the welfare of our animals always comes first.”

But the conservation organization Born Free said injury or death were “unfortunately inevitable” among captive animals and called for “transformative reforms in the way the zoo industry is regulated.”

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