27/02/2008

Tiger Man Expelled By USPCA

The man at the centre of a tiger-petting row has been evicted from a USPCA facility he ran.

Reports that people were allowed to stroke his pet tiger inside its cage has been resulted in him being ordered to vacate the centre he previously ran.

Norman Elder, who was in charge of the Wildlife NI animal hospital at the old Causeway safari park near Ballymoney, was removed by the USPCA together with police and the ambulance service earlier this week.

The USPCA revealed that they had been forced to act due to a number of concerns about ongoing activities at the park, including claims that a television journalist had had his safety jeopardised during filming with an exotic big cat.

Fifteen-year-old Sonya the tiger is one of the animals that was in Mr Elder's care and he has been looking after her for the past two years at his Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, where he also keeps wolves, snakes and lizards.

USPCA spokesman David Wilson said the charity was "saddened" by events that had led to them asking the organisation, Wildlife NI to vacate part of their site.

He said: "Unfortunately this decision was deemed necessary because of an inadequate response by Wildlife NI to a number of serious concerns raised by the USPCA regarding procedures and practices carried out on their premises.

"This came to a head last week when the society were alerted to the fact that a television journalist had his safety jeopardised during filming with an exotic big cat.

"However, the discovery of a photograph on a Bebo site of a young child inside a tiger's cage stroking the animal without any responsible health and safety procedures in place forced the charity's board to act swiftly."

Mr Wilson also revealed that the society understood that a Sunday tabloid newspaper is in possession of tape recordings allegedly relating to the tiger being offered by Wildlife NI for use in an advertising campaign involving young children.

He stressed, however, that the USPCA was still committed to the founding concept of Wildlife NI and wished them every success in the future.

(BMcC)

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