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Safari park apologises to families who saw lions chase down and kill monkey accidentally let into enclosure

A Scottish safari park has apologised to two families who saw the moment lions chased down and killed a monkey which had accidentally been allowed into their enclosure.

Blair Drummond Safari Park, in Stirling, said in a statement on its website: “We are truly sorry that our visitors witnessed what must have been a really distressing sight.

“This tragic event is being felt deeply by the teams involved who care for our animals around the clock.

The visitors, it said, had been given “a full account of what happened” while support has been given to those staff directly involved.

Shaw, a nine-year-old Barbary macaque, was killed when it jumped into the lion enclosure after escaping its own pen on 1 December.

The park’s lion warden “did all he could to protect the macaque… but was unable to protect them from the lions,” who “responded as they would in the wild, by chasing and sadly killing the animal,” it added.

Witnesses are reported to have heard the creature shrieking in agony while video has been published showing a lioness running through her enclosure with the macaque in its mouth, pursued by three other lions.

Another of the monkeys that escaped was coaxed back to its enclosure.

The statement said: “We are taking this extremely seriously; the safety of our visitors and the safety and care of our animals is our highest priority.

“The incident in the lion enclosure has never happened before in the history of Blair Drummond Safari Park and we share the shock and concerns that this took place.”

An internal investigation found the monkeys, members of an endangered species, escaped through the gates to their habitat, which had been opened to let in a visitor’s car.

The staff member who was manually operating the gates was not to blame and new operating procedures have been established to prevent any repeat, the statement said.

The park said it had reported the incident to BIAZA (The British and Irish Association of Zoos).

Barbary macaques are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which warned in 2018 its future “is uncertain due to the reduction and fragmentation of its natural habitat”.

Once widespread in the Mediterranean, the species has a population of between eight and 10,000 in the forests of Morocco, Algeria and the Rock of Gibraltar, the IUCN said.

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