Former employees at Jersey Zoo allege animal welfare concerns and bullying in 'toxic workplace'

This video contains distressing images
  • "Those pictures are unbelievably disturbing ... this would never have happened in Gerald Durrell's time": Former Jersey Zoo staff members describe alleged animal welfare concerns

Former senior staff at Jersey Zoo allege that animals are not being cared for properly and workers are being bullied as part of a "toxic workplace" culture.

Pictures obtained exclusively by ITV News show a female aardvark with severe scratches down her back and sides after staff allegedly introduced her to a male too soon and did not monitor them correctly.

A sloth is seen lying on a hard floor at the bottom of a metal set of stairs with other photos showing it in the corner of stairs, on its back, and hugging a concrete pillar.

It is also claimed goats have foot rot due to the poor conditions they were kept in.

Following a year of investigation by ITV News reporter Katya Fowler and producer Sophie Dulson, three prominent former zoo employees have chosen to speak out ahead of a no-confidence vote in the Board of Trustees.

Pictures of a sloth in its enclosure at Jersey Zoo. Credit: ITV News
Goats allegedly have foot rot due to poor living conditions. Credit: ITV News

Quentin Bloxham dedicated more than 40 years to Jersey Zoo, working closely with founder Gerald Durrell; from the charity's creation to it becoming a world-leading conservation group for endangered animals.

He recently visited and was shocked by what he saw, explaining: "I found the aardvarks and sloths in particular were kept in levels of accommodation well short of what I would have expected to see at Durrell."

Quentin says aardvarks which are nocturnal, large creatures were kept in "too small" an enclosure and under "glaring white lights" in the daytime.

Dominic Wormell was Head of Mammals at Jersey Zoo for 34 years but resigned in August 2023 over concerns about how it was being run.

He tells ITV News: "I felt I couldn't fulfil my dreams and passions anymore so I had to leave.

"We were encouraged to be champions, 'if you come and you're lucky enough to work at Jersey Zoo you're going to be a champion for a species' ... that feeling and that passion, certainly over the last few years, dissipated a bit and we've got a bit 'zoo-ey' for want of a better word."

Commenting on how the animals are now looked after at the zoo, Dominic adds: "One would have to ask yourself, if you went to the zoo today as a visitor, is the area where the sloth is kept in the stairwell ... is that appropriate for a sensitive exotic mammal?

"I think people can make their own minds up on that."

Dominic Wormell feeding a tamarin during his time as Head of Mammals at Jersey Zoo. Credit: ITV News

One former employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, alleges staff were bullied and did not feel they could voice their concerns.

She says it was a "toxic place to work" because of the behaviour of the former Chief Executive Officer Dr Leslie Dickie, and Head of Operations Graeme Dick.

Both have since resigned from their roles.

The former employee recounts: "There was a thing about "oh don't do that, you'll go on Leslie's hit list', that was something that was said quite often."

ITV News approached Jersey Zoo and asked them to send these allegations to both Dr Leslie Dickie and Graeme Dick so all three parties have the chance to respond.

The zoo declined ITV News's request for an immediate interview on Thursday 18 April but has offered one the following week with Interim Chief Executive Officer Becky Brewer.

In a statement, Chair Matthew Hatchwell says: "Regarding allegations about staff behaviour, we cannot comment on these matters publicly and have a duty of care to all employees.

"We have been communicating with a number of individuals over the last 12 months regarding concerns they have raised. We have addressed each concern directly with them, including an in-person mediation.

"We take allegations about poor animal welfare incredibly seriously. In September 2023, we asked Jersey's Chief Veterinary Officer to undertake an inspection into the matters raised around the sloths and aardvarks, and she found no concerns.

"We have done everything we can to address concerns and will continue to improve how we communicate with our staff and provide opportunities for feedback.

"The EGM [Extraordinary General Meeting where a no-confidence vote in the Board of Trustees will be held] next month is one of these opportunities. We hope that this will fully address matters and allow us to continue to focus on our important mission of saving species and building on the legacy of Gerald Durrell."

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