Badgers blamed for zoo TB outbreaks

Friday 16th March 2018 9:44 am
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Benjamin Mee with one of the zoo tigers ()

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A zoo that featured in Matt Damon’s We Bought a Zoo is now at the centre of a TB outbreak.

Dartmoor Zoo at Sparkwell near Ivybridge, inspired the 2011 film starring Matt Damon, who played the zoo’s owner Benjamin Mee.

And now the establishment is in the limelight again, this time due to a strain of TB being found in an antelope after it was put down last year.

It is believed that badgers could have been the carriers of the disease, but staff at the zoo were quick to state that they are not calling for a cull.

Staff from the zoo stated that the positive test means its Balai status has been removed, so animal movements are now restricted.

The zoo said in a statement that there was "no increased risk to our human visitors" and it was "open as usual".

Instead, it would make animal enclosures badger-proof and was considering inoculating animals against TB.

Dartmoor Zoo and Paignton Zoo are the only zoos or wildlife parks in England currently with TB outbreaks, according to Defra.

Paignton Zoo has also said it suspects badgers brought TB into its zoo.

TB was found at Paignton last summer and 11 antelope were put down.

It has improved its fencing to keep badgers out and is giving animals contraception to prevent overcrowding amid the movement restrictions.

Both zoos hope restrictions will be removed by the end of the year.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said it was "unfair" to blame badgers and that the zoos should look at testing food and animals brought in.

"It’s easy to focus on badgers but it could be coming in from raw meat," he said.

Dartmoor Zoo has been approached for a comment.

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