Burning Embers

25 July 2017 | Liz Bowen

Animal rights are always going to be a controversial topic. Everyone has their own views, on everything from fox hunting to zoos.

No-one becomes a zookeeper to be cruel (at least, I’m sure 99.9% of them don’t). Many of those who spend years training and working with animals develop relationships with them, getting to know the characteristics of their species, their individual personalities and their likes and dislikes.

A large number of zoos and wildlife parks are now committed to benefitting the species they look after, with many entering international breeding programmes to help maintain them for future generations.

Losing one of these animals then must be heart breaking. As a fan of The Secret Life of the Zoo, I balled my eyes out when one of its young elephants died – as did the keepers they interviewed following the incident.

However, sometimes decisions have to be made; unenviable ones I’m sure no zookeeper ever thinks they’ll ever have to make.

Today it was  announced that staff at the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford shot dead an escaped wolf called Ember.

While the park said the death was ‘devastating’ and a last resort, social media users, including numerous wildlife experts, have blasted the decision to shoot rather than tranquilise Ember.

To make matters worse, the three-year-old wolf had given birth to five cubs earlier this year – the first wolves to be born at the park in its 47-year history.

Ember was found outside the park’s fence, towards the A361. In a statement, the park said she was out of range for a tranquiliser and near a busy road and said had there been any way to save her, it would.

The statement also reiterated the safety of visitors and the public as the park’s priority.

These situations are always tragic. Who can forget the public outrage following the killing of Harambe the gorilla last year at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden?

Whatever your thoughts on the situation, it is unlikely the decision to shoot Ember was taken lightly. And from a PR perspective, it's generated headlines for all the wrong reasons.

That aside, it is an incredibly sad situation for everyone, and every animal, involved and no doubt the Cotswold Wildlife Park will be reeling from this for a long time to come yet.