Ministers warned Zion big cats could kill

By Mike Barrington of the Northern Advocate -
Craig Busch. Photo / supplied
Craig Busch. Photo / supplied

Two Cabinet ministers have confirmed Lion Man Craig Busch warned them big cats at the Zion wildlife park could kill someone shortly before a tiger fatally mauled a keeper.

Before 26-year-old keeper Dalu Mncube was killed three years ago, Mr Busch wrote to Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson, Primary Industries Minister David Carter and to both the Department of Labour and the former MAF about his concerns over safety procedures at the Whangarei park, now called Kingdom of Zion.

Spokespeople for both ministers yesterday said Mr Busch's messages had been passed on to the Department of Labour when they were received.

The ministers, government departments and Mr Busch all declined to comment on the warning messages because Mr Mncube's death was set down for the coroner's hearing next month.

Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland will hold a three-day inquiry into Mr Mncube's death at Whangarei on June 12-14.

Two months before the attack, Mr Busch expressed his concerns to the ministers over the training and skills of Zion staff controlling the big cats.

"I urge you to take immediate action to remedy this before someone gets badly hurt or killed,'' he wrote.

Mr Busch offered to advise the ministers on ways to improve standards at the park.

Eighteen days before Mr Mncube's death, Mr Busch again wrote to the ministers and to the two government departments to say a serious or fatal accident was inevitable at Zion unless safety was improved.

On May 24, 2009 - two days before the mauling - MAF replied to Mr Busch, saying his concerns had been discussed with the park's then-manager, Glen Holland.

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