Brian Davies, founder of Network For Animals, supports demand by the Lynx UK Trust that Borth Wild Animal Kingdom’s ‘hobby zoo’ be permanently shut down.

Lillith escaped from her enclosure at Borth Wild Animal Kingdom
Lillith escaped from her enclosure at Borth Wild Animal Kingdom and was shot dead on Friday amid fears she was prowling too close to homes. Photograph: Borth Wild Animal Kingdom/PA

A seaside zoo reeling after the loss of at lynx shot dead after leaping out of her enclosure last week is facing calls for it to close after it emerged that a second lynx died on the premises last week.

The owners and staff at Borth Wild Animal Kingdom in west Wales said they were devastated at the deaths of the two wild cats but were determined to carry on if they are allowed to. More than 3,000 people have signed a petition launched by the Lynx UK Trust demanding that what it has dismissed as a “hobby zoo” be shut. But speaking to the UK Guardian, the zoo’s co-owner Dean Tweedy said: “We are not a hobby zoo. We have ploughed everything we have got into this and we are doing it for the animals.” He said that many of the animals at Borth had been rejected by other zoos. “They are in last chance saloon. If we are shut, where will they go?”

Brian Davies, founder of Network for Animals, said: “As a Welshman who has spent my entire life fighting animal cruelty, I repeat that zoos are places of inherent cruelty. They should all be shut.”

A young female Eurasian lynx named Lillith was shot dead on the orders of the local authority last week amid fears she was prowling too close to homes.

On Monday, the Lynx UK Trust revealed it had found out that a second animal died last week while being moved within the zoo by keepers. The zoo then released a statement on its Facebook page confirming that the second lynx, named Nilly, had died. “Over the past few weeks our staff have been under incredible pressure and when the authorities gave us 24-hour notice that they would be carrying out a full cat inspection we took the decision to move Nilly to a more suitable enclosure,” the Trust said. “Unfortunately, there seems to have been a terrible handling error where it seems she twisted in the catch-pole and became asphyxiated.

An internal investigation is under way, and a key member of staff has been unable to work since the ordeal as they are truly devastated by what has happened. The authorities were notified after the incident and will be carrying out their own full investigation.” The statement added that the zoo, particularly the lynx enclosure, were “not up to modern zoo standards” when the current owners took over and added that a new enclosure was planned.

The Lynx UK Trust, which campaigns for the reintroduction of the cats into the wild in the UK, has offered to re-home the zoo’s remaining lynx. The chief scientific adviser to the trust, Dr Paul O’Donoghue criticized both the zoo and the local council. “I’ve visited Borth zoo and had the entire sequence of events explained to me,” he said. “The levels of incompetence and ineptitude are mind-blowing. “What if it had been Borth’s crocodile that escaped? Or their two lions? UK hobby zoos are a disaster waiting to happen, if they aren’t closed down I am in no doubt that eventually someone will be killed by an escaped and unpredictable captive-bred animal.”

Zoo officials had spent more than two weeks trying to recapture Lillith after she leapt from her enclosure last month. What seemed a jolly tale turned sour at the start of last week when farmers’ leaders claimed she had killed seven sheep in a field near the zoo. On Friday, Ceredigion county council ordered that Lillith be shot dead. The council explained on Sunday: “It was not possible to assess the condition or temperament of the lynx, but there were concerns about its likely behavioral response if it was startled or inadvertently confronted by a member of the public, especially by a young child. “It must be remembered that the lynx is classified in legislation as ‘dangerous and wild’ and the authorities were dealing with an unmanaged escape situation.” The council also said it had launched an investigation into Lillith’s escape “to establish whether there have been any breaches of the operating licence and other related matters”.

Tweedy said the zoo would remain closed until further notice

Tweedy said those who work at the zoo were devastated. He said last week there was a chance to capture Lillith alive when she was found asleep under a caravan. “When we got there the caravan was boarded in on three sides with decking and all we had to do was sling a net across the back and we would have had her trapped. Unfortunately, one of the officials insisted that he needed to photograph her and make a positive ID before we were allowed close. He slipped and fell going up the bank which startled her, causing her to run past him and off across the fields.”

Tweedy said the zoo would remain closed until further notice. He added: “When we took over this business just six months ago we knew it was in a terrible state. It had been neglected and run down for quite a while with many of the enclosures rotting and not fit for purpose. “It’s quite an unusual place as it takes in many animals that would not be accepted elsewhere. Many of the animals are rescued from the animal trade or are exotic pets that the owner cannot look after any more. “It is our intention to reopen after inspection and carry on the work here to give these animals the decent home that they so richly deserve with new enclosures and better amenities.”

The Lynx UK Trust said it could provide secure individual enclosures for all of Borth’s surviving lynx at a recently established, 30-acre wildlife rescue centre in Wales that is staffed by experts in wild felines.