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Zion wildlife park 'should have closed'

By Mike Dinsdale -
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Dalu MnCube with two of the big cats at Zion Wildlife Gardens. Photo/File
Dalu MnCube with two of the big cats at Zion Wildlife Gardens. Photo/File

The partner of a man killed after being mauled by a tiger at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens says he would still be alive if the then Department of Labour had closed the park while it investigated an earlier attack by the same tiger on another park worker.

Northland coroner Brandt Shortland has recommended the Government look at new regulations surrounding the operations of zoos and animal parks after Dalubuhle Ncube, also known as Clifford Dalu MnCube - or Dalu - was mauled by a male tiger named Abu after he and fellow handler Martin Ferreira had entered its enclosure to clean it on May 27, 2009. After holding an inquest into the death in October last year, Mr Shortland yesterday released his formal findings.

Dalu's partner Sharon Arnott told the Northern Advocate, through her lawyer Juliet Golightly, that she felt her partner and father of their daughter would still be alive if the then Department of Labour had been more proactive.

In February 2009 Abu had attacked another handler at the park - Demetri Price - leaving him with serous injuries after Dalu saved Mr Price from death in the attack.

Mrs Golightly said Ms Arnott believes the department should have closed the park until the investigation had been completed.

Mrs Golightly said Ms Arnott was still deeply affected by Dalu's death.

"She's devastated by it still, two and a half years later," Mrs Golightly said.

"Sharon would also like to thank Martin Ferreira for his efforts in trying to stop the attack, she's deeply grateful for that. He put his own life at risk."

Mr Shortland said the inquest had illustrated the complexity of the legislative framework and regulatory bodies required to work with parks like Zion and others, with three different legislations and various bodies involved.

"The Biosecurity Act and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act are proactively enforced while the Animal Welfare Act and Health and Safety in Employment Act are reactively enforced.

"Regulatory reform should be considered on a number of levels from changes to existing legislation to potentially forming new legislation," he said.

Mr Shortland found that Dalu died when he was attacked by Abu in his enclosure, with the cause of death a combination of asphyxia/suffocation and from the results of the wounds inflicted by the big cat.

Zion Wildlife Gardens was placed in liquidation in 2011 and sold to new owners in February 2012 who operate from the premises as Kingdom of Zion. The new owners were not involved in the running of the park at the time of the accident.

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