Jersey Zoo Chief Executive responds to ITV News investigation and animal welfare concerns

  • Watch the extended interview as ITV Channel presenter Jonathan Wills questions interim Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Brewer about animal welfare and staff concerns at Jersey Zoo

The acting head of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust says it is an "incredibly challenging time for everyone" at the charity.

Rebecca Brewer's comments are in response to an ITV News investigation which saw former senior employees at Jersey Zoo allege animals are not being cared for properly and workers are being bullied in a "toxic workplace" culture.

Asked what she made of the report, Ms Brewer explains: "This is an incredibly challenging time for everyone and it's had a great impact on everyone here at Durrell but especially those who care so passionately for our animals.

"We have a fantastic, dedicated, passionate and experienced team and really my focus is on bringing them together so that we can move forward positively."

She addressed animal welfare concerns after photos obtained by ITV News showed a sloth lying on a hard floor at the bottom of some stairs, and a female aardvark with severe scratches after staff allegedly introduced her to a male too soon and did not monitor them correctly.

Ms Brewer says: "A picture at a moment in time doesn't represent the whole welfare and care for the animal. Mixing animals and aardvarks comes with inherent risk, they can be unpredictable.

"Nacho did have some abrasions, what's really important is the vets tended to her really quickly, she healed really quickly and Nacho and Tafari are now the best of friends.

"Our keepers will always continue to understand and learn from these experiences and ensure that our animals get the best possible care."

Some of the photos obtained by ITV News from sources inside Jersey Zoo of animals in the charity's care. Credit: ITV Channel
The aardvarks sleeping in their enclosure at Jersey Zoo around midday on Wednesday 24 April as filmed by ITV News. Credit: ITV Channel

Ms Brewer adds: "We're really pleased with the progress the sloths have made since they came under our care. We have continued to make improvements just like we would for any enclosure.

"We have given them more nesting boxes, more foliage, we've put in a new misting system. We were aware that Terry used to go down onto the floor at her old enclosure but actually, we're seeing that behaviour less and less at the moment."

"We really want to reassure people that our focus on animal welfare is still our number one priority.

"We will always continue to adapt, learn and evolve how we care for our animals and the enclosures that we keep them in are based on our observations, learnings, best practice and latest husbandry guidelines."

Speaking about workplace culture over the last couple of years as a number of staff have resigned, including three high profile managers in seven months, Ms Brewer says: "I'm committed to listening and engaging with our staff, volunteers and members.

"Staff welfare is a really important priority to me. We're open to feedback and we're not afraid to make changes if we think things need to change.

"We have listened and we will continue to listen, creating a culture of open communication but what's really important now is that we have stability.

"Durrell is a growing organisation and with growth comes change, which can be unsettling for people and we do know that we can do more to also bring our staff with us on that journey."

Responding to concerns about how many animals at Jersey Zoo are not listed as endangered, Ms Brewer explains: "About 50% of the species here at the zoo are known as threatened and that's actually increased over recent years, it's significantly higher than some other conservation zoos in the UK so we really pride ourselves on that."

An Extraordinary General Meeting when a no-confidence vote will be held in Durrell's Board of Trustees is set for Thursday 2 May.

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