Case Study: Jurassic Encounters
Norfolk-based Jurassic Encounters is a family-run, mobile zoo which describes itself as a “rescue sanctuary”. The term rescue is misleading as many would believe that rescued animals would lead a life of rest and relaxation. Jurassic encounters operates as a business, run from the owners’ 3 bedroom family home, which houses some 145 exotic and domestic animals. For fees starting at £50, the animals – which include pythons, skunks, geckos, civets, lizards, meerkats and a baby crocodile – are available to hire for animal encounters and animal-handling parties/events across East Anglia.
To a welfare-conscious customer, Jurassic Encounters may appear to be a good option. Amongst other accreditations, they boast that they hold a ‘Performing Animals licence’, are fully insured and DWA trained and vet inspected. Yet the law does little to protect the animals held captive by these businesses. The Performing Animal ‘licence’ they refer to is not a licence at all, but is simply a registration with the local council which has no formal inspections as part of the process. Even the Government has commented repeatedly about how this registration does little to protect animals so this in itself does not mean the animals are safe.
As outlined on this website, mobile zoos such as this present a considerable disease risk; for example, salmonella is contractible from exotic animals such as reptiles. Jurassic Encounters, like most mobile zoos, is primarily comprised of reptiles, which are likely to be handled on a regular basis by adults and children.
Moreover, the animal handling/contact by those hiring the mobile zoo could cause an animal to suffer greatly from stress. Not only does animal-handling/contact induce stress in animals but so does regular transportation. Jurassic Encounters proudly states that it is available for hire up to seven days a week, leading Freedom for Animals to wonder how much rest some of these animals have from the stressful life of a travelling zoo.
Whilst Jurassic Encounters claim to educate children and adults about exotic animals, Freedom for Animals is concerned that mobile zoos such as these will fuel the exotic-pet industry or encourage others to become involved in a mobile zoo industry which, to date, remains unregulated. Although the owners of Jurassic Encounters do claim to have taken on animals from poor conditions/situations of neglect they also contribute to the exotic pet-industry by breeding certain animals and placing them on show. In a series of posts of their Facebook page, Jurassic Encounters promoted the successful breeding of their meerkats, which was undertaken as a response to the heightened public interest in the species following the ‘Compare the Market’ advertising campaigns. From just £50, a customer may purchase a ‘Meerkat Encounter’.
In 2015, Jurassic Encounters had an event cancelled after complaints from concerned individuals to the shopping centre where it was due to take place. Freedom for Animals supporters took part in the online action to cancel the event explaining to organisers that a shopping centre is no place for exotic animals. This added Jurassic Encounters to the list of many other mobile zoos which have had events cancelled due to complaints. Not only are the public more and more aware of the issues surrounding mobile zoos but event organisers are also willing to cancel such events.
The company continues to add to its collection and a recent addition was a Eurasian Lynx which is classed as a dangerous wild animal by law. They obtained the animal as a cub and have been keeping it in an 8ft x 8ft room in the house but are not permitted to take it out to their mobile zoo events. The lynx named ‘Echo’ is registered as a Dangerous Wild Animal and the licence was granted with certain stipulations from the vet involved in inspecting the premises. The vet has stated that Echo is only to be kept in the current accommodation for 6 months from the issue date of the licence. This will therefore run out on 7th April 2016. The company is seeking to expand to a zoo by moving to a new location which is to be funded, in-part, by public donations. With no site for their zoo at present, we can only wonder where the animal will be housed after that date. Whether a room in a house or an enclosure in a back garden, the accommodation can be labelled nothing but substandard by those concerned with the welfare of these beautiful animals.
The potential plans to open a zoo raises concerns of more animals to be brought into a life of captivity, unable to carry out many of their natural instincts. It is yet to be uncovered whether the business will continue to run the mobile zoo alongside the static zoo or whether handling of animals will be encouraged at the premises. Whether in a mobile zoo or a zoo, Freedom for Animals believes that the needs cannot be met for wild or exotic animals in captivity.